The NCAA’s Division I Council passed a proposal last week that would better regulate college football recruiting and have major effects on the process.
The proposal, which will go before the NCAA Division I Board of Directors on Wednesday, would add an early signing period in December, allow recruits to take official visits in May of their junior year and limit the time an FBS coach can participate in camps and clinics to 10 days in June and July. During those camps, which must take place on the school’s campus, coaches can have recruiting conversations with prospects participating in the camp.
“It’s definitely going to change the landscape of recruiting,” said Gunter Brewer, UNC assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
Brewer said allowing recruits to take visits earlier will likely increase the number of visits recruits take if they have multiple offers and options. The NCAA allows five official visits per athlete.
“I think it’s going to add to the budget,” he said. “I think it’s going to add to the chaos a little bit, but that’s the way recruiting is anyway.”
As it is now, a college football prospect can only verbally commit to a school in advance of national signing day. Nothing is guaranteed until a player signs a National Letter of Intent in February. Until then, it’s a free-for-all. A school can try to convince a player to decommit from the school they originally committed to, and some coaches can change their minds about players.
Barton Simmons, the director of football scouting for 247sports.com, said the potential changes will likely protect prospective college athletes from the negative instances that occur with recruiting.
“This can protect a player that may be committed to a school for an extended period of time, who then sees his head coach fired, a new coach come in, in January, and the new coach may not want that prospect and sort of drops him and moves onto the next one,” Simmons said. “And that prospect is left looking to find another home.”
That situation happened to UNC signee CJ Cotman, a 5-11, 180-pound four-star athlete, who originally committed to Tennessee last July.
“My coach called me in and basically told me that they had snapped my offer away,” Cotman told Gridiron Now. “They wanted somebody with experience, so they wanted to go get some junior college players.”
Having an early signing period for college football has long been a topic of conversation. However, nothing has ever been passed.
The current model restricts high school football players to signing with schools in February on National Signing Day. The proposed model opens the door for an early three-day signing period in December.
Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding signing day in knowing who may or may not sign. The AFCA, he said, wanted more transparency for both the coaches and recruits. He said the early signing date provides that.
“If all of a sudden Berry University signs a quarterback in December, then if I’m another quarterback that is interested in Berry University, then that whole month of January before the February signing date I’m going to be able to take visits to places that I know are legitimately interested in me,” Berry said, “and I can look and see they’ll probably be able to take only one quarterback in the class, because they probably would have signed me in December.”
Duke coach David Cutcliffe was vocal about the potential changes on this past February’s signing day. He said he didn’t really have a problem with a December signing period. He said the average commitment length for his signees were 221 days.
But Cutcliffe said the NCAA should be careful with changes, especially when it comes to recruiting high school students earlier than ever. He said he didn’t feel like the current model was broken.
“I’ve heard that statement,” he said. “We’re not. We’re producing a lot of great young men.
“I spent a lot of time looking at all of this, and the thing I can tell you most importantly is that we need to be a little more cautious about trying to change things that sound right. They need to be right.”
Efforts to reach Cutcliffe this week were unsuccessful.
If the Division I Board of Governors votes to approve the proposal, most of the recruiting changes will go into effect on Aug. 1.
What does the proposal change?
▪ Changes the recruiting calendar to allow for an early signing period in December. There is currently only one signing period – in February – for high school recruits. Junior college players currently have an early signing period in December.
▪ Adds a period for official visits that begin April 1 of an athlete’s junior year, and ends in the latter part of June. Currently, recruits are allowed to take official visits until their senior year.
▪ Prevents Football Bowl Subdivision schools from hiring people close to prospective student-athletes for a two-year period before and after that student-athlete enrolls at the school. FBS schools are currently allowed to hire people close to student-athletes within a two-year period before and after that student-athlete enrolls.
▪ Limits FBS schools to signing 25 players to financial aid agreements or National Letters of Intent per year. Currently, the NCAA’s bylaws limit schools to signing 28 NLI from initial signing day through May 31.
▪ Limits FBS coaches to participating at camps or clinics to 10 days and requires the camps to take place on their school’s campus or facilities it normally practices on.
A school is currently allowed to host a camp at an off-campus site. The school’s football camp or clinic can be during the months of June, July and August.
▪ Allows coaches employed at camps to have recruiting conversations with prospects participating at camps.
Currently coaches are not allowed to have recruiting conversations with prospects participating at camps.
▪ Allows FBS teams to hire a 10th coach. Teams currently have nine coaches. Most coaches say it is the lowest player to coach ratio in all of college sports.