- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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DESTIN, Fla. -- If the college football recruiting landscape does change, the SEC made sure this week that it will be ready.
A couple of weeks after watching the ACC propose an early signing period to begin on Aug. 1, the SEC on Wednesday offered its own recommendation to have a signing day on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive said he hopes there won't be an early signing period, but if there is, he wants his league to be prepared.
The league wasn’t happy about the ACC’s proposal for an earlier signing period because of how it would change the recruiting calendar, something the SEC absolutely doesn't want. The league also decided that in its model, it would ban official visits for recruits who want to sign early, therefore lessening the pressure and clutter of having overstocked official visits during the season and on game weekends.
SEC coaches believe that a signing period that comes after the college and high school regular seasons allows recruits to play out their senior seasons while studying the teams they’re interested in and figuring out coaching staff stability. By banning official visits for recruits who want to sign early, coaches wouldn't have to cram important recruiting visits in during the season and could focus on coaching their teams.
An early signing period would also save money as coaches wouldn't have to invest in recruiting trips to re-recruit already committed prospects.
“I’ve been a proponent of that for years,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “It’s long overdue.
“It clears the picture up.”
To Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, it clearly makes sense for the league.
“It’s one that keeps our calendar pretty consistent. It allows the guys that have been committed to their school to sign with that school,” Mullen said. “It also protects the student-athlete as best as possible.”
When Mullen says “protects,” he means that players who don’t want to bother with the recruiting process won’t have to hear from opposing coaches still trying to get their signature before national signing day on the first Wednesday of February. The recruit also would guarantee his spot in the class by signing early.
Mullen also said that the SEC's proposal would protect the schools that don’t want to lose those recruits with months remaining before they sign their national letters of intent.
In the current recruiting culture, you just can’t take every recruit at his word. This way, you take him at his signature before Christmas rolls around.
The SEC’s model would make the Monday after Thanksgiving a one-day signing day and a dead day for communication between coaches and recruits. The Sunday before would become a quiet day, and Tuesday would begin the next recruiting period.
The goal would be to not make this the new national signing day. This is just for the handful of prospects whose minds are made up.
“Obviously, if you’ve got guys that have signed and are with you no matter what, you don’t have to continue to worry, ‘Is this guy going to change his mind; is he going to flip at the last second?” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Everyone would like some sanity in that regard.”
What Richt does find insane is the ACC’s proposal to have an early signing period before the regular season even starts, which would essentially destroy the current recruiting calendar and rush spring and summer evaluations.
“One of the other leagues proposed Aug. 1. We think that would be crazy,” he said. “We think there would be no summer for anybody, no sanity for anybody.”
The SEC and ACC have plans, but whether this happens is unknown. To Florida coach Will Muschamp, getting enough people to agree on a date could be a mountain of an obstacle because of varying agendas for different schools.
“A lot of coaches, including myself, don't want an inordinate amount of visits during the season because it takes away from your football team and your preparation, your preparation for the next week, so I really think we're going to have a hard time agreeing on something that's good for everybody just because of the regions of the country,” Muschamp said. “A lot of the northern schools don't want kids visiting in January because it's freezing cold and they lie to them and tell them it's really warm year-round. I think that's something you've got to deal with, so I don't know if we're ever going to come to a common ground in my opinion, based on the information I have.”
Judging by what many conference members have said, it appears the sport is creeping closer and closer to an early signing day, with the interest mounting from coaches. What’s a little more change in college football, anyway?
6dEdward Aschoff and Alex Scarborough