An Early National Signing Day Is A Game-Changer For College Football

Today marked a significant day for the sport of College Football.

For the first time, the NCAA instituted an early signing day period. Traditionally, high school athletes signed letters of intent within the first week of February. While this practice will still take place, a second — and earlier — day was added today on Dec. 20.

It’s an interesting time for athletes and coaches alike. It also raises the question: Is it worth it to have a second signing day?

There are certainly a few reasons for why it was instituted in the first place. For one, this helps coaching staffs as they piece together their classes.

By knowing who’s firmly ‘in the boat’ after the first signing day, it’ll signal the available rides remaining for those recruits who’re waiting until February. As a result, coaches can put even more effort towards those undecided recruits — thus presumably giving them a better chance at signing them rather than having to also ‘pay attention’ to committed recruits who’ve clearly voiced their intention on signing with the said school.

In a sense, it helps the coaches in saving time on recruiting players that are already in the fold — as well as those who will likely be signing elsewhere.

As it pertains to the athlete, there are multiple aspects in which the early signing day will prove beneficial.

A player is allowed five official visits. An official visit is paid for by the university — whereas an unofficial visit will have to be paid for by the athlete himself. In a hypothetical situation, we will look at the older system with only one signing period.

Let’s say a player does make a non-binding commitment to a school months before signing day. The athlete can still make all five of his visits before signing in February. At that point, the school he committed to initially may not believe he is firmly on board. As such, his scholarship may be offered to another player. Upon wanting to sign with his desired school, he may find out that there’s no room for him. It then would lead into a situation where the player would be scrambling at the very last moment for what could ultimately be a worse choice.

This has occurred weeks, or even days before the signing day period. At that point, it’s up to the recruit to try and find a fit in an exceptionally short period of time.

This scenario is applicable to coaches and programs as well. Seeing as a pledge is non-binding, a player is firmly within his right to change his mind before signing anything. On signing day, we’ve seen countless examples of players flipping to another program at the very last minute. This then leads into the staff rushing to offer another player at the same position. Worst-case scenario includes not being able to adequately fill a positional need. The months — and in some cases years — spent recruiting an athlete will virtually go out the window with a single signature.

With the new signing day added, things have changed considerably.

If a player has committed to a school — though doesn’t sign with them in the earlier period — it could signal that the athlete is rethinking his decision. This then allows for the program to pivot and have two months to potentially go out and find another option.

Within that same token, a high school athlete could become tired of the arduous recruiting process. By signing during the early period, the pressure would be completely gone. He’d then be able to enjoy the Holidays — as well as the upcoming months of his high school career.

It will be fascinating to see how this all shakes out in the upcoming years.

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