Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Wednesday there have been preliminary discussions with the NCAA’s football oversight committee and in coaching circles about possibly changing the early signing period for recruiting.
Bowlsby, a former chair of the oversight committee, said the American Football Coaches Association also has started talking about shifting the signing period, which began in 2017 and allows prospects to sign with schools in mid-December rather than on the first Wednesday in February.
Administrators and coaches have said the accelerated recruiting calendar has led to more coaching changes during the season and early hirings to get new coaches in place for recruiting. There have already been 22 new coaches hired in the current cycle.
“We sure have more early departures than ever before,” Bowlsby said. “There’s a lot more talk than I’ve heard in recent years about either getting rid of it altogether or perhaps moving it to after the first of the year. We’ll see how that goes.”
Bowlsby chaired the Division I football oversight committee when the early signing period went into effect. He said the intent was to help athletes and their families, who he said should be consulted about possibly changing the timeline again.
“I’ve heard people talk about moving it to February and moving another one later,” Bowlsby said. “I’ve heard people talk about doing it maybe right after the national championship game [in January]. I haven’t been a party to the discussions except anecdotally with a few coaches.
“Clearly, things have changed since the early signing date was put in. The transfer portal didn’t exist at the time, and there are things that have changed. At the end, we’re going to have to go back to the reason we put it in place and ask if that’s still a valid reason.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, a longtime opponent of the early signing period, said the impact on coaching changes had been “foreseeable” as far back as 2009, when a white paper was produced about the potential effects of an early signing date.
“Now because you have to have your class in place by mid-December, [the hiring cycle] accelerated,” Sankey said. “If we change the signing date again, will it eliminate this accelerated timeline? I’m not sure it will. We may have let the toothpaste out of the tube.”
Sankey opposes an even earlier signing date in the summer, noting that coaching changes in November and December would prompt a movement for recruits to be let out of their letters of intent. He also said a summer signing date would further reduce the limited time off coaches receive.
“There was something sensible about February,” Sankey said. “You were through the hiring cycle. … Very rarely did you have any coaching changes after signing day. There was relevance to that.”