Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, like the majority of college football coaches, supports the general idea of an early signing period for the sport.
“You’re going to see an early signing period here at some time,” Johnson told the AJC. “There needs to be an early signing period, just from a financial standpoint and from everything else. So that the kids who know where they want to go can get it done, and get it over with and save a bunch of money and a bunch of time …
“It’s nuts right now. And financially, it doesn’t make sense to not have an early signing period. If you’ve got a kid who grew up wanting to go to Georgia Tech, Georgia, Alabama, or wherever, and they’ve known that their whole life, why not let them sign in November or December? Why do they have to wait until February?
“And then when they sign, the schools know exactly how many scholarships that they have left. They know exactly the numbers. It wouldn’t be as chaotic, and it would be a whole lot less expensive than trying to babysit them for three months.”
Does Johnson think kids should be allowed take official visits during the summer before their senior year of high school? (Right now, they have to wait until Sept. 1, per NCAA rules)
“Kids are already taking visits now. I mean, with the majority of our recruiting class – and I bet you can go back and look at anybody’s recruiting class, the majority of the kids are committed by August, which is before you can take official visits. What’s happening is if they did an early signing period, maybe they could do earlier visits or whatever because right now kids are having to pay for it themselves. They’re all taking unofficial visits.
“I think what you would see happen is that the kids who weren’t sure and wanted to take official visits, they wouldn’t sign in the early period. That’s why I say I think you’d do away with all the early verbal commitments. Because if a kid is verbally committed in August or July, and he didn’t sign in December, what does that tell you? It tells you that maybe it really wasn’t a verbal commitment. So the kids who do want to sign can get it over with, and not be pestered and bothered until February. And like I said, it’s not going to affect anybody. You could have a provision in there that if the coach changed, then the early signing was null and void. That would protect (the kids) that way. There’s a way to do it.
“Every other sport has an early signing period but us. It hasn’t affected basketball that much. You don’t see all the de-commitments in basketball. They are recruiting less people but they also have an early signing date. There’s a couple of reasons. Once a kid commits, they don’t let them visit anywhere else if they’re committed. If they do, they’re not committed, same as everybody else. That’s one. And number two, they sign early. So if they are committed and signing early, it’s over. They don’t have an extra 10 weeks to be hammered and talked out of what they thought they wanted to do. And it’s like I always said: If a kid isn’t sure what he really wants to do, then don’t sign early. Just go through recruiting, and they’ll have another date to sign in February.”
What about the theory that bigger schools want to leave things just as they are right now with a February signing period because they can raid smaller schools for recruits if there is a coaching change after the season? For example, USC had some late success on the recruiting trail after hiring Steve Sarkisian to replace a fired Lane Kiffin.
“I think that’s that is overrated, and that’s just my personal opinion. I think if you look at the schools, and it doesn’t matter who the coach is — it doesn’t change much,” Johnson said. “The schools kind of recruit who they are going to recruit. It doesn’t change a whole lot. If you go back and look at the schools: Does Saban recruit better than when Mike Shula was there? Probably, (but) because they were on probation. But it’s not like Alabama hasn’t ever gotten good recruits. They were pretty good before, right?
“Go back and look at the University of Georgia. You can look at Georgia Tech. You can go back and look at all of them. There’s not much difference with who the coach is. Was Georgia not getting top 10 classes with Donnan and Goff and Dooley? Gene Chizik didn’t have any problems recruiting at Auburn. Neither did Tuberville or whomever. That’s why I say that part is not why they don’t do it (an early signing period). They’re not waiting to hire some young gun to come in … and all of sudden he’s going to reach into recruiting and all of sudden he’s going to get a top five recruiting class and that school never did. Sarkisian goes to Southern Cal but oh by the way when is the last time that Southern Cal wasn’t in the top 10 of recruiting? Not very often. It doesn’t matter who the coach has been. That’s what I’m saying.
“I don’t know why they (the NCAA) don’t do it (an early signing period), honestly. But when you sit in on the head coaches meeting, you’ll have guys on both sides. You’ll have guys from smaller schools, and then some guys from bigger schools both say in favor of an (early signing period) to speed up the process or kids don’t have enough and the whole nine yards. My answer is that, if you don’t have enough time (as a recruit), don’t sign early. Take your time. Make sure you’ve got what you want. If you’re good enough, the colleges will wait on you.”
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