Don’t worry. The spectacle you’ve grown to love — or hate, or both — isn’t going away.
The NCAA approved sweeping changes to college football’s recruiting model on Friday, including the ability to set up an earlier signing date for recruits. Many pieces of a comprehensive reform bundle were designed to relieve pressure on those high schoolers and their families — and also, though this isn’t exactly a stated goal, to reduce the hype that attends it all.
But the circus is just coming to town a little earlier.
That running back is still going to tug on your school’s hat — or your rival’s. That defensive back you covet is going to pull a live alligator from a bag. All of the wackiness is still in play — and will likely still be beamed live, all over everywhere — it’s just moved up a couple of months on the calendar.
When it gets final approval this summer, college football will add a December signing date to go with the first Wednesday in February. Things are going to be different. In some ways, better. Recruiting in college football has been spiraling out of control for a long time. It needed serious reform.
“We’re dealing with a very entrepreneurial group,” acknowledged Bob Bowlsby, speaking mainly of college coaches — but essentially of anyone connected with the process. “There will certainly be lots of thoughts on how to gain an advantage and how to work the (new) system to optimal outcomes.”
Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 and chairman of the NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee, noted the overwhelming consensus toward adding the signing date in order to allow a highly pressurized process to finish earlier. It’s a good idea — as were many of the other rules passed Friday by the NCAA’s Division I Council.
► Adding a 10th assistant coach for FBS programs (effective January 9, 2018).
► Altering the recruiting calendar to allow for earlier official visits (now April-June for high school juniors).
► Essentially ending “satellite” summer camps by restricting them to a 10-day period on a school’s own campus, while allowing coaches “to have recruiting conversations” with players at the camps.
► Prohibiting the hire of an “individual associated with a prospect” (IAWP) either to work at camps or for a full-time position in a support staff role if the school has recruited those players during a period two years before the hiring or plans to do so two years after. This proposal raised concern among some coaches, who said it effectively prohibits the hiring of high school coaches — though they can be hired as an on-field assistant.
► Limiting schools to signing 25 players per year, ending the practice of oversigning.
The entire package is a necessary step, and long overdue. Bowlsby called it “the most comprehensive, impactful legislation in football recruiting” during his time in college athletics. Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, chair of the NCAA’s Division I Council, called it “transformational.” Neither was really overstating anything.