The long-awaited early signing period has yet to come into effect, but one of the people involved in making it happen has already called for its extinction.
Speaking at his conference’s media days Monday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby advocated for an early signing window that would give players lengthy windows to sign scholarship papers during their senior seasons.
“We had trouble even getting 50 percent support for an early signing date,” he said. “This time around it was adopted without much fanfare. I’m not sure that a signing date is exactly what we need in today’s environment. I have asked coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners, repeatedly over the last 12 months why we have a signing date. It seems to me that if we have 70 percent of the student-athletes want to commit relatively early, one date is not all that important. The only answer I’ve ever gotten is because we’ve always had a signing date.
“I think you could end up with a signing window, where you say, ‘We’re going to do visits in April, May and June, we’re going to go to camp. If you want to get the recruiting process over the institution can issue a letter of intent, you have 14 days to sign it. Maybe the window runs from October 1 to November 15, or maybe it runs from September 1 to November 1, and you get it over before the postseason. I don’t know why there’ can’t be a window where you offer the scholarship that the student-athlete wants to conclude the recruitment process and the institution knows that they’d like to make a decision, go ahead and do it.
“Right now one of the most troubling statistics that I have heard is that the average FBS institution makes 233 oral offers. Nobody can sign more than 25. We just passed a rule that you can’t oversign any longer. There’s a lot of disingenuousness in the system. We need to try to clean that up as much as we possibly can, and it seems to me that a signing window might be the answer to it.”
Bowlsby is far from the first person to propose such a thought. In fact, his expanded signing period position isn’t even the furthest left in signing period thought. A number of coaches have advocated for eliminating signing periods altogether and permitting players and programs to make their relationship official at whatever moment the two sides are ready — whether it be on the first day of their freshman year or the first Wednesday in February of their senior year.
Bowlsby’s recommendation would be a half-measure between those two extremes, just as the current December/February set up is a half-measure between the three signing periods that the three signing dates the NCAA originally proposed.
With hundreds of programs recruiting thousands of schools each year, there is no possible system of importing those players to their future schools that would make everyone involved perfectly happy. It does not exist. The answer lies in finding a solution that works the best for the largest amount of people.
We all have our opinions of the best way to do that. The only difference is that, as the commissioner of a Power 5 conference, a member of the Division I Council and chairman the Division I Football Oversight Committee, Bob Bowlsby’s opinion actually counts.