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It’s like daylight savings time just hit college football with coaches and some players about to move their recruiting clocks up to December. For the first time, college football will join all the other NCAA sports and offer an early signing period for Division I and Division II athletes. But what exactly does it mean to “sign early” and what are the advantages and disadvantages to doing so? Since this is the first year, many football families have a lot questions. Here are some answers on the new early signing period and what it could mean for your recruiting. Also, I interviewed a former DI player to get his perspective on the new early signing period.
We didn’t realize it started this year. When is it?
High school senior and junior college football players can now sign their National Letter of Intent (NLI) during the new early period, starting December 20, 2017. The new early signing period is really short–Players have only until December 22 to sign. If they do not sign during that time, they’ll have to wait for the regular signing period which is February 7, 2018 – April 1, 2018. Junior college transfers have until January 15, 2018 to sign their NLI.
If asked, should our athlete sign early?
It totally depends on your athlete’s recruiting situation. If the school that offered and asked your athlete to sign early is their dream school; go for it. If they’re still weighing their options, or not sure if it’s the right fit for them; hold off.
Justin Worley was the Gatorade High School National Player of the Year for football in 2011. He went on to play Quarterback at University of Tennessee and had an illustrious career with the Vols. He committed to play for Tennessee in his junior year of high school. When asked if he had the option to sign early, would he, he said yes. “My goal was to have my commitment made before my senior year, so I wouldn’t have any distractions. I would have signed early because I graduated early and knew that Tennessee is where I wanted to go.” He also stated, “Early signing will be good for college coaches because they will be able to start locking in their class earlier. As a result, this should lead to a decrease in athletes decommiting and will show if an athlete is truly loyal to a school or not.”
If our athlete doesn’t sign early, what happens?
Since this is the first early signing period for football, the answers aren’t totally clear. If offered to sign early and your athlete doesn’t sign, it’s really up to the coach to decide if they still want to leave that offer on the table. It would be smart to reach out to the coaching staff after early signing and see if that offer still stands. Also, a coach may view your athlete not signing early as a lack of commitment to their program. Worley added, “I’m curious to see if a coach will hold it over a player’s head if they don’t sign early. They may pull that offer and give it to someone else.”
When not to sign early
If your athlete really isn’t sure they want to go to that school; it’s simple. Don’t sign early. Worley explains, “The only reason to not sign early is if you’re still weighing your options. Some guys are still taking official visits and feeling different schools out. For example, if you’re offered late (say November or December) and haven’t visited that school yet. In that instance, you may want to take an official visit prior to signing.”
Who really gets asked to sign in December?
The reality is that it will be the very elite players who will be asked to sign in December. What does that mean for everyone else being recruited? The positive is that your athlete will be able to see how many athletes did sign and it will give them a little over a month to continue to weigh their options, see how many roster spots are still open, or see if they receive a late offer. The down side is that your athlete may no longer have an opening at one or more of their target schools and as a result most likely won’t receive a scholarship from those programs.
If offered and coach leaves or gets fired, does the offer still stand?
The answer can be yes or no. It’s up to the new or incoming coach to determine if that scholarship offered by the previous coach still stands.
Worley shared, “That happened to me with Tennessee. Lane Kiffin offered me and left before I ever got there. Thankfully, incoming coach Derek Dooley evaluated all Kiffin’s offers. He reached out to me and said my offer still stood and they wanted me to come up and meet the new coaching staff.” I asked Worley if an athlete had an offer to a school and the coach that offered left or got fired and the athlete hadn’t heard from the new coach or his staff, would that athlete still have an offer? He said he wasn’t sure but if it were him, he would reach out to the new staff. “If you don’t hear from the new coaches, I’d guess it’s a 50/50 shot you still have that scholarship offer.”
Not asked to sign early? Don’t worry!
If you’re not asked to sign early; don’t worry, all is not lost! Again, only the top-tier players will be asked to sign early. If you’re not asked, you still may have a scholarship offer and/or still may be recruited to sign during the regular signing period. The vast majority of college football players who are coming in from high school will not sign during the new early signing period.
When the time comes, what does it mean to “sign”?
Once an athlete signs their NLI they are committing to compete at that school, usually for one year, in exchange for an athletic scholarship. The amount of scholarship awarded is agreed upon by the school’s athletic department, the coaching staff and the student-athlete and their family. Signing an NLI also means your recruiting journey has come to a successful close. Remember, the NLI is a legally-binding document so you want to make sure you and your athlete understand all parts of the agreement.