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Will a Football Early Signing Period Help Kentucky’s Recruiting?

For the recruiting junkies, like me, an early signing period, would lighten the load on Big Board preparations, but would it help Kentucky?

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Susan Peal, Associate Director of Operations for the NCAA, discussed the subject along with early enrollments and signed Letters of Intent in an article by Mitch Sherman of ESPN. Ms. Peal manages the national letter of intent program for the NCAA.

According to Ms. Peal, the Conference Commissioners Association (CCA) is considering a move toward an early signing period due to accelerated football recruiting. The CCA is a 32 member panel of Division I which governs the letter of intent program. They plan to meet in June to discuss an early signing period as one of the items on their agenda.

She's quoted as saying that everyone wants an early signing period, yet Mark Stoops is quoted as saying that the SEC coaches are opposed to the idea.

"I think there's more momentum now than ever just because of the changes that are happening with recruiting regulations," said Peal, who works closely with the commissioners on topics related to national letters of intent. "The landscape is changing, so it's time to look at it again." - Susan Peal

"I know the [Southeastern Conference] coaches are not in favor of changing the recruiting calendar," Kentucky's Mark Stoops said in January. "If things start moving up, it changes the way we've been doing things for a long time."

So, which is it?

The idea is an old one that has been rejected in the past, but early enrollments (January) are changing the dynamics of football recruiting. Early enrollments are apparently up, especially with the 2014 recruiting class.  January enrollees don't have to sign a LOI in February because they signed grant-in-aid papers before enrolling in January. Recruits can sign those papers as early as August and they can sign with as many schools as they choose. In return, the school(s) can mention the players' name publically during the dead periods.

In another story by Mitch Sherman, he tells us that the NCAA issued an interpretation of an existing regulation that allowed senior football prospects who planned to enroll in January to sign financial aid papers as early as August 1st that bound the schools with which the players signed to honor the scholarship offers. While a letter of intent signed in February binds a player to a school, the signing of a grant-in-aid (GIA) does not bind the player.

This NCAA interpretation had unintended consequences of allowing multiple schools who had received GIAs to discuss a player publically and contact the player via whatever means (text, phone calls, tweets, etc.). According to Sherman, this created a recruiting free for all. In December 2013, the NCAA tried to clean up a potential mess by issuing a statement that only the first school that a player signs a GIA with can do their thing in public.  To gain a complete understanding of the problems that has caused, you need to read that story (linked below) which has another Mark Stoops quote.

Back to the early signing date: the actual date is up in the air and seems to be the major point of contention. One advantage is that such a move would free up valued resources trying to keep early commitments on board until the NSD in February. An early signing day or period would allow schools to move on and concentrate on the uncommitted. Of course, in the SEC, recruiting budgets are near unlimited and the idea of early signings isn't something that brings the SEC schools an advantage. I am, of course, talking about the major SEC programs.

I've done some research and found that the SEC led all the big five power conferences in early enrollments. Here's a breakdown:

SEC: Twelve of the 14 schools took early enrollments in January. The SEC took 61 early enrollments. The conference average was four per school, but Tennessee took whopping 14. Only Missouri had no early enrollments. Kentucky, if you'll recall, had seven.

ACC: The ACC (I included the new members for the 2014 season) took 37 early enrollments for an average of 3 per school. Miami led the conference with six while Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, NC State and Pitt had none. For those who care, the birds with teeth had three.

B1G: The Big 10 (includes Rutgers and Maryland) took in 44 early enrollments with Ohio State (remember the Glenville Three?) and Michigan leading the way with seven apiece. Northwestern, Rutgers and Iowa had none.

Big XII: 35 players enrolled early with Big 12 schools for an average of 4 per school. Baylor took 7 for the most in the conference. Each school in the conference had at least one early enrollment.

PAC12: The left coast schools took 26 January enrollments for an average of two per school. Arizona took 7 while Stanford, UCLA, Arizona St., and Washington had none.

The AAC took 16 and the two big independents, Notre Dame and BYU, took two each.

Here's your story links:

NCAA eyes early signing period: Link

Loophole closed, questions remain: Link

You have to wonder how the December interpretation will affect the 2015 recruiting class, but it seems to me it might be beneficial to Kentucky.