By Mike Dyer
Football commits need an option to sign before their senior season begins
The hype and attention of National Signing Day has subsided – at least for the moment.
As usual, some critics can’t stand the 24/7 coverage of where senior football players sign their National Letters of Intent. Others can’t soak it in enough.
In this ultra-competitive industry of major college football, livelihoods are at stake for coaches investing time and resources into 16-, 17 and 18-year-old high school student-athletes.
The cycle repeats itself every spring. College coaches will visit a ton of high schools and offer more scholarships. Camps will be held this summer. Preseason rankings will appear again.
Verbal commitments are often made in the summer before the season. Those willing to wait are able to take official visits during the fall.
Inevitably every December, the coaching carousel in college football spins fast. Jobs are lost and jobs are inherently gained from those jumping ship. The same goes for scholarship offers.
It is that sequence of events which makes a point for an early Signing Day in football.
“Once the kids commit and sign early the colleges know exactly how many scholarships and what position they will be recruiting for the later signing period,” St. Xavier coach Steve Specht said. “This helps both colleges and prospective student-athletes.”
Specht made other points when I asked about him this issue. An early signing period would take away the whole de-commitment issue for some of the players. Last-minute offers could be pushed up a bit. If players are signed during the early period, other players can move up the boards at other schools.
And finally, there is an element all high school coaches and athletes want if an early signing period is enacted.
“It enables kids to sign, get it over with and focus on their senior years,” Specht said. “They can enjoy the senior experience a little more.”
I still remember the image on my iPhone of Walnut Hills safety Nilijah Ballew proudly displaying his University of Louisville jersey this summer on his unofficial visit last spring. His high school coach George Kontsis proudly sent it to me. He verbally committed to the Cardinals about two weeks later in late April.
More than eight months after that, Ballew had to find another program because he wasn’t a good fit for the new Louisville coaching staff.
Life isn’t fair, but Ballew should be given the opportunity to ink an agreement with his original school.
While many bemoan National Signing Day, I’m left to wonder isn’t it time for another one each year?
Mike Dyer is the high school sports editor for the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati.com.