Duke coach David Cutcliffe is among those not in favor of the early signing period and other changes to college football recruiting.
In January, the NCAA adopted new rules that would, among other things, allow recruits to take official visits during the beginning of their junior seasons, and have an early signing period similar to other sports. The idea behind this change was that it would create better transparency among coaches and recruits and help better regulate the football recruiting environment.
Under the previous model, football recruits had to wait until February of their senior seasons to sign with a school. In football, recruits often commit to a program early and often have to wait months to sign. 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.
The new model implemented an early signing period that started on Wednesday and ended on Friday. The first time coaches were allowed to contact recruits was after Thanksgiving, which also coincided with preparing for Duke’s bowl game.
“So I’m flying across a little bit of everywhere, as is the staff,” Cutcliffe said. “You have a current squad that is trying to finish the semester. They need our support and our attention. So I think that it’s not as functional as you would like it to be and maybe not as important to the process as some people saw it.”
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren had a similar experience. He said the two weeks after Thanksgiving were the most hectic two weeks of his life trying to recruit 20 to 30 kids.
“I was in 11 homes in three days in multiple cities,” Doeren said.
Other unintended consequences that may occur, Cutcliffe said, are schools signing players who eventually may not qualify, and having players who make decisions before they are ready.
“It’s probably made some young people make a decision quicker, and they were maybe waiting on an offer from this school, didn’t get it so they signed with this school,” he said. “And later on this school may say, ‘well we would have signed you,’ and so he goes here wishing he was at this school.”
“How productive is he going to be here and is he going to be looking to transfer,” Cutcliffe added. “I didn’t see where we were broken badly in football.”
Other coaches across the country had similar opinions. Alabama football coach Nick Saban told the media in Alabama that he too sees players being pressured to sign early before getting an offer they may have wanted all along.
“Then other guys are trying to make a decision about signing early or not signing early, and they’ve got all these new coaches and coaching staffs that are sort of bum rushing them to not do that so they get a chance to recruit them,” Saban said, according to seccountry.com.
This coming spring, juniors will be able to take official visits to schools. Cutcliffe disagrees with this rule most. He said he recently had a high school baseball coach who was angry that his two best players, who were juniors, quit because they were going to be recruited in the spring.
“What’s right about that,” Cutcliffe said. “Nothing. Got coaches in areas where they have spring practice asking me ‘are you going to bring our kids in on the weekends? We have to kind of figure out when we’re going to have scrimmages, or what’s happening.’
“I’m trying to figure it out too. The last thing I want to do is hurt high school sports, period. The last thing I want to do is have a 16-year-old on campus experiencing college life. That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Staff writer Stephen Wiseman contributed to this report.