College football’s National Signing Day is too early. Need convincing? Just look at Syracuse’s most recent signee, Sean Avant, who committed to the Orange this past weekend to play in the fall. Since NSD in early February, SU has reeled in an extra five players (two of which are currently seniors in high school). Avant was a name on the Orange radar for months throughout the fall, but it took until now for it all to come together.
Why does this happen every year? National Signing might be the first Wednesday in February, plenty of players choose schools later. If so many players decide on where they’ll play after NSD, why does the NCAA insist on holding it that early in the school year? The tradition started over 30 years ago, but is it a necessary one?
The main reason National Signing Day is too early is because it comes too soon after the end of the bowl season. Syracuse played in the Pinstripe Bowl December 29th, and Doug Marrone bolted for Buffalo just a few days later. That meant the new coaching staff had less than a month to reorganize its class. Recruits Augustus Edwards, Laray Smith, and Malik Brown all admitted the coaching change made them rethink their decisions. Edwards and Brown were already committed to the Orange, then decided to go elsewhere.
This year’s BCS national championship game will fall on January 6, and with the new playoff system coming the final game of the season will likely be pushed even later. Imagine if National Signing Day was a month later. The first Wednesday in March. Scott Shafer, George McDonald and Chuck Bullough, would have had far more time to stabilize players’ decisions and calm the nerves of itchy commits.
Look at what happened in Piscataway a year earlier. Greg Schiano jumped at the chance to coach in the NFL less than a week before the 2012 Rutgers class signed its letters. At the time, Rivals.com National Recruiting analyst Mike Farrell couldn’t believe the impact of the calendar.
“This couldn’t have happened at a worse time for Rutgers. Never in the history of Rutgers football have things been going so well. The team was coming off a nine-win season when they were expected to finish near the bottom of the Big East, recruiting was going better than it ever has and the state of New Jersey’s top two players were set to commit by Signing Day. And then this.”
While RU ended up bringing in a fruitful class anyway, many schools are not nearly as lucky. With more pressure to win, impatient AD’s and NFL franchises are making massive moves every winter. Most of those changes come during the month January, which leaves very little time before NSD. Eighteen-year-old students should not be forced to make quick and sometimes rash decisions about where they’ll build an education and prepare for their next step in just days. If these prospects were given another month, everyone would benefit.