Kentucky Football: Early Signing Day As A Classic Security Dilemma

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Elements within the SEC claim not to want an early signing day, but they may have no choice.

This:

Makes me think of this:

"The security dilemma...is a term used in international relations and refers to a situation in which actions by a state intended to heighten its security, such as increasing its military strength or making alliances, can lead other states to respond with similar measures, producing increased tensions that create conflict, even when no side really desires it.

...In John Herz's words, the security dilemma is "A structural notion in which the self-help attempts of states to look after their security needs tend, regardless of intention, to lead to rising insecurity for others as each interprets its own measures as defensive and measures of others as potentially threatening."

The SEC doesn't want to create an early signing day for college football, but the rhetoric suggests their hand is being forced. If other conferences start doing it they could be at a competitive disadvantage. This is how wars start. In the increasingly competitive, covered, and profitable world of recruiting the progress to our current state was probably inevitable.

It seems like the coaches have settled on the Monday after Thanksgiving, contrary to yesterday's prognostication of early August. This makes sense too. It's not during the regular season, so coaches won't be taken away from their game-planning to sell a 17 year-old and his family to go to their school. Additionally, this won't move up the recruiting calender for coaches. Delaying a signing day until November will allow the coaches the fall to evaluate many of their recruit's senior season rather than completing thorough evaluations prior to their season's beginning.

This feels like a compromise by the SEC fraternity of coaches, "If we're going to take this on, let's at least try to schedule it outside of the season." Yet, the reform still has to pass the NCAA before any changes are made. Will they do it? I have no idea.

First, the potential rule is murky. According to Mike Slive tonight, only prospects who haven't taken official visits are eligible for an early signing day. That won't change the current system much (maybe that's the point). Out-of-state visits don't usually happen unless they are official visits. Essentially, the prospect who is going to sign early would have probably done so anyway. For the University of Kentucky, it would probably be an in-state kid, or someone from Ohio that Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow have already gotten to visit unofficially multiple times to basketball games, the spring game, and/or summer camps.

Second, this rule would obviously enable the adults who serve as these prospect's handlers. If prospects and their families can't afford to send their kids to far-flung schools, then the colleges will begin paying their handlers to do so under the table. This new rule makes recruiting less transparent, all because the conferences could fear a loss of a competitiveness, while its possible that "no side really desired it" in the first place. The SEC may say it will encourage its coaches to continue the current model but Pandora's Box will have been opened upon NCAA approval. Every school will be looking for an edge at that point.

There are reasons to like an early signing period, but this doesn't seem to be the way to go about it. I would suggest two changes. One, allow prospects to take official visits anytime after the completion of their junior year of high school instead of the beginning of their senior year. This gives them the spring to be identified, hear the sales pitch from various schools, and narrow down their choices for summer visits. Two, allow schools to pay for the travel of a recruit to attend one of the university's official (in other words "open to the public") summer football camps without it counting as an official visit. This avoids handlers while still getting the recruit on campus to see it for himself, all while letting coaches evaluate in person. It won't count as an official visit so later, if they like what they see, they can follow-up by bringing their parents at a later time.

An early signing period is correct in spirit, and probably inevitable due to the current state of college football, but it should be managed in order to lessen opaqueness and maximize usefulness for both programs and recruits.

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