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SEC's leaders opposed to early signing proposal

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Greg Sankey and the SEC leadership have been steadfast in their opposition to an early signing date. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

DESTIN, Fla. -- Some of college football's heavyweight conferences seem prepared to vote in favor of a mid-December early signing period, but the SEC remains steadfast in its opposition.

Commissioner Mike Slive said Wednesday at the SEC spring meetings that this is the third time in the past six offseasons that this issue has arisen and his stance has yet to change.

"Going back to ground zero, we are not in favor of an early signing date in football. As a league, we are where we have always been," Slive said. "As you know the CCA, the Collegiate Commissioners Association, put together a task force and they made a recommendation for an early signing date. We don't agree with that recommendation."

The CCA task force recommended in January that the sport adopt a 72-hour window in December in which prospects can sign with their chosen colleges. If adopted, the early signing period would open in conjunction with the mid-year, junior-college signing date -- set for Dec. 16 this year -- and the new rule would be in effect immediately for the recruiting class of 2016.

The CCA, which includes each of the 32 NCAA Division I conferences, will consider the proposal at its annual meeting next month in Asheville, North Carolina.

The ACC and Pac-12 are among the conferences that have indicated a willingness to vote in favor of the additional signing period, which would precede by seven weeks the traditional signing period in early February. Other conferences have sent mixed messages, but the SEC's stance is clear.

"We have over time, over six years actually as that idea has been there, identified concerns about what happens in the fall," said SEC executive associate commissioner Greg Sankey, who will take over as commissioner upon Slive's retirement on July 31. "What happens in early December when conferences are playing championship games? When the next week, people are in final exams and you're asking some prospects to sign national letters of intent midweek during their own state high school playoffs?

"You don't have access to another semester's academic information where you're making decisions and probably don't have test scores at any point during the senior year? I could go on and on with the incremental three pages of concerns."

Although some SEC coaches like the general concept of an early signing period, many conference leaders echo Slive and Sankey's objections and claim that it would be too disruptive.

"Our position, and we're strong in that position as ADs and football coaches, is that we're against an early signing period," Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said. "We think it's not good for the game and not good for the student-athletes in recruiting, not good for the coaches, not good for the student-athletes we're coaching. So for a number of reasons, we think that's not the right thing for college football."

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva agreed, noting, "It just changes everything. If you do it early, then you have official visits going on during the whole football season. I kind of want my coaches worried about winning games during the football season. It changes priorities and focus and changes the whole timeline of when things get done. Maybe we'll vote to put one in, but I'll be surprised if we did."

Nonetheless, there are coaches within the league who would support the measure if the early signing period arrived a couple of weeks earlier and did not disrupt the current recruiting calendar.

"I'm really in favor -- and I think it was well-thought-out and well-designed -- for an early signing date that Monday after Thanksgiving, where it rewards that individual who grew up loving Tennessee," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "And so they want to get it over with just like we do, so they sign when they take their official visit once their season has concluded. I think that's the best and that's the healthiest for college football."

LSU coach Les Miles agreed, adding that the post-Thanksgiving signing period would allow the prospect to secure his spot in a signing class and also would eliminate the issues that can arise when prospects opt to decommit just before national signing day.

"[It creates] the opportunity to make sure that those guys that want to commit early are done, you know who you have," Miles said. "In other words, 'Hey, we committed those two linebackers, so we don't really need linebackers. We're good. OK, they decommitted, they went to another school. Guess what? We need two.' It just makes great sense. It makes great sense for the student, for the guy that wants to go, makes great sense for the college, period."

The December date seems to be the sticking point among most SEC coaches. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said he was in favor of that time frame, but admitted he was in the minority.

"I was one of the few coaches within our conference that was in favor of it, simply because I'm definitely in favor of some form of it," Stoops said. "I think there's some discussion about the date, and I think we were not unanimous, but we had strong support within our room to have some form of early signing period. It's just a matter of how to get all those details worked out."

However, Stoops' conference will certainly make its objections clear when the CCA officially takes up the issue next month, as Slive and Sankey obviously view it as a Pandora's box that should remain closed.

"Given what we think are compelling reasons, it doesn't appear appropriate to simply move to a signing period six or seven weeks early with much the same substantive issues and arguably creating even more," Sankey said.

NFL technology coming? While many college football purists balk at the idea of making the college game more like the pros, SEC coaches seem interested in bringing NFL on-field technology to their game.

"Anything that will help our game, I'm for that," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "I really wish we had a microphone in the quarterback's helmet, I really would like that."

Well, Freeze could have his wish if the coaches get their way. All 14 SEC coaches discussed the possibility of being able to communicate with one player on offense and defense through the use of in-helmet microphones and having still photos on the sideline during games -- just like teams do in the NFL.

Sankey said there were discussions with the coaches about having advanced technology on the field, but something like that would probably have to go through the NCAA rules committee first.

Still, coaches hope it's a reality in the near future because of the advantages it gives players and coaches when it comes to in-game adjustments and preparation.

"There's no better tool than those, right now," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said.

"I think it's something that moving forward has a chance in the next couple of years."

Storm concerns for Sumlin, A&M: Sumlin said he had difficulty traveling to Florida on Tuesday in the wake of Monday's extreme rainfall throughout Texas. He was preparing Wednesday afternoon to travel home to sort through the damage done by the devastating storms.

"It's bad. TV doesn't do it justice," Sumlin said. "There's a lot of people that are out of homes and lives are upside down. I used to live in Houston obviously and for that city to be shut down completely is really tough. So the problem is, too, there's not a lot of place for that water to go. So I'm headed back now."

Making matters even more difficult for Sumlin is that his players are spread far beyond College Station since spring semester ended three weeks ago.

"We've got lots of friends and we're calling players just trying to figure out if they're all right, where they are," Sumlin said. "For us, it was different because our guys are out of school, and ... trying to get here was, in the grand scheme of things it was important, but it wasn't nearly as important as what was happening there."