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Moving up the Early Signing Period does little to address crowded calendar

© Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

National Signing Day is moving up a few weeks.

According to multiple reports, the NCAA has decided to move the December signing period up to the Wednesday before the conference championship games and before the transfer portal window opens.

It will be a three-day signing window but, as usual, most of the signing announcements will happen on that first day.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported that the officials also decided to table a decision as to whether to add a third signing period in the month of June, now something that would not happen until at least the summer of 2025.

As the calendar falls this year, the early signing period would start on Dec. 4.

Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney takes a quick look at the pros and cons of this decision - and whether it means anything drastic to the recruiting calendar, decision timelines or the packed schedules of coaches during that time anyway:

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PROS

... One positive from this development is that December becomes slightly less hectic for coaches who have to juggle conference title games, bowl preparation, the coaching carousel, the early signing period and the transfer portal window which is incredibly time-consuming and happens so quickly with such high stakes.

I’d imagine there would be three official visit weekends like usual leading up to signing day in November which stretches the busy season of December up a few weeks but brings with it unintended consequences that will be addressed later.

... With the expansion of the College Football Playoff, conference championship games have importance for seeding in that tournament but nowhere near carry the same weight. For example, Georgia losing to Alabama in the SEC title game would not have killed the Bulldogs’ chance of playing for a national championship in the 12-team expansion. There’s no way Florida State would have been left out. That could mean that coaches have more time to focus on closing their recruiting classes since conference title games are still incredibly important but not do-or-die anymore.

... In some ways, moving the December signing period up before the transfer portal window puts some power back in the hands of high school recruits. These players can make commitments and sign with schools before college players jump in the portal and that means high school coaches will have to put their first focus on those high school recruits. It also invites some danger to sign early because of the unknown. A top high school safety signs with Ohio State and then Caleb Downs jumps in the portal from Alabama and signs with the Buckeyes? How is that positive for the high school recruit?

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CONS

... This solves nothing. I proposed weeks ago that some other things that should be considered are a signing day in the summer (that will be tabled until June), possibly in August before the season starts and then removing December entirely and bringing back February once the portal window closes and the coaching carousel stops. That would allow high school players to sign before their hectic senior seasons, dodge all the tumult of December and if they’re not early enrollees they can wait until February when all the dust settles.

Another thought is to not limit signing at all - and a player can do it whenever he wants. Stop thinking in a linear fashion of hard dates and timelines and allow prospects to sign in June or July or August or Dec. 1 or Christmas Day if they want. Have an entirely open signing calendar instead of one day where everyone - all at once - make their decisions.

... An argument could definitely be made that having high school players sign before the portal window opens certainly benefits the coaches but really hurts the prospects. This timetable allows coaches to sell a bag of goods to recruits, sign them and lock them up and then recruit over them in the portal. For example, the top receiver in the class signs with Program X. Then the top receiver in college football decides a week later to enter the portal. Program X has every right to recruit that college football receiver and sign him, so how does that benefit the high school kid who just signed?

In some ways, it benefits the high school player more in the old model where it’s at least clear which portal players are being recruited to a specific school so then they can make the decision to stick with their top pick or go elsewhere. The new calendar flips that around - and doesn’t help the high school recruit at all.

... There is even less coaching carousel clarity earlier in December. Almost none of those moves have happened yet and while everyone likes to get on their soapbox and talk about how prospects should pick the school and not to play for a specific head coach or position coach, the reality is that’s not how it works. Relationships matter in recruiting.

By my count, there were 31 head coaching changes in college football this offseason. There were hundreds of assistant coach moves. That impacts thousands of recruits. Now you want almost all of them to sign with a school before any of those moves occur - and before they know who’s coming in as their new head coach, their new position coach and whether those staffs - not to mention all the staffs that stay intact - are going to recruit over them with portal players?

Moving up the December signing period gives a marginal advantage and some relief to the coaches of college football. In no way does it really benefit the prospects.