After years of discussion, the NCAA Division I Council has voted to allow an early college football signing period, though the proposed rule still has to be approved by the Collegiate Commissioners Association, who will discuss the legislation in June.
If approved — a likely outcome at this point — the early signing period would be implemented for the current recruiting cycle, in addition to the traditional signing day on the first Wednesday of February. Dates have yet to be established, but it’s expected to be a three-day period just before Christmas, mirroring the junior college window.
While there’s still plenty of uncertainties to iron out between now and June, we do know that this ruling will have massive implications across the college football recruiting landscape.
So how will it impact Mike Leach and Washington State?
Leach, dating back to his Texas Tech days, has been staunchly opposed to the “dumb” idea, explaining that he’d rather focus on football rather than multiplying the number of days on the road recruiting in-season ahead of an early signing period.
“I think it takes away from the season,” Leach told reporters in 2009. “I think that you have recruiting so that you can play games and if you’re going to go cloud that with an early signing period, it takes away from the game. It’s pretty good the way it is now.”
Official visits changes
An early signing period could completely change the college football recruiting calendar, likely allowing prospects to take official visits during the spring of their junior year and then through the summer, which would lead up to in-season visits.
Leach, following a rash of de-commitments during the days leading up to signing day following the 2014 season, has loosely moved away from bringing prospects in for official visits in-season, a decision surely to change under a new signing day format.
Warm weather visits to Pullman certainly wouldn’t hurt and summer visits would also check the “spend more one-on-one time with the prospect” box Leach has reiterated when discussing the reason for pushing official visits to after the regular season.
It’s certainly possible, however, that Leach could keep the same official visit policy — cramming official visits into the summer and the two-week window following the season, then in January — in which point all of the above words were pointless.
Poaching, flips and de-commits
If you’re reading this, you already know how tough it’s always been to recruit to Pullman given the variables involved. It’s my opinion* that an early signing day wouldn’t do a whole lot to curb flips and de-commits for WSU, in particular.
*I think most prospects are still going to wait until February, but that’s just one man’s opinion.
Prospects holding on to a spot while fishing for some “bigger” offers are likely to risk it and wait until February to sign. If a prospect doesn’t sign at the first date, does WSU move on? Do they wait it out? This is the kind of clarity such a format would allow.
Alternatively, early signing period could really benefit WSU. You’ve seen it time and time again, where WSU gets a verbal commitment from a prospect, who just prior to signing day picks up that big offer close to home, then flips to said school.
WSU does a great job at scouring the country for hidden talent. An early signing period could increase the chances of actually landing a diamond in the rough, as opposed to picking up a commitment from a prospect with no offers, who then picks up double digit offers in January, then flips.
The academic hurdles that an early signing period creates haven’t been discussed at length during this process, but it’s a big factor. WSU is in a better position than, say, Stanford under this format given the acceptance standards between the two schools.
SB Nation’s Bud Elliott looked at how an early signing day would impact a school like Stanford, whose acceptance process is much, much more difficult than other schools.
Because of Stanford's academic standards, which are much tougher than NCAA minimum requirements, it runs into many more difficulties getting recruits admitted than the average football factory. Stanford does its best to judge who will likely be admitted, but often times the process is long and drawn out through a commitment's senior year, as he continues to take certain classes that Stanford admissions wants to see.
For Stanford, an early signing period could indeed be catastrophic. It would face a situation in which talented, smart players want to sign early and take advantage of strong academics and be a part of the burgeoning football program, but could not allow them to sign because they are still far from clearing admissions. Those players, not willing to wait around, would lock up spots at other schools and Stanford's recruiting would take a hit.
As a result, WSU can take more academic risks. This increases the talent pool early for WSU, which could result in a higher number of prospects taking a spot during the early signing period.
Without knowing all of the details, it’s tough to say how much an early signing period would benefit or hurt WSU. I’ve always been indifferent to it.
Personally, I think there should be a signing period from April to February. The school sends a letter of intent with a written offer and the prospect can sign it or not. Surely it’d take the drama out of it all, something that’s sorely needed in today’s recruiting.
Anyway, we’ll have more on this as details emerge. What do you think of today’s vote?