Could Roquan Smith change the landscape of college football recruiting with his decision to bypass signing a national letter of intent? It doesn’t sound like the people who run the NLI program for the NCAA are too thrilled with that historic possibility.
The linebacker from Macon County High School committed to UGA on Friday, and I communicated with the Susan Peal, who is the Director of National Letter of Intent (NLI) program for the NCAA, earlier this week. Peal serves as a liaison between the collegiate governing body and College Commissioners Association (CCA)
Yes, the NLI — that’s the document which was called “the worst contract in American sports” by Sports Illustrated this week. That’s the one that Roquan Smith is bypassing entirely. But he signed the athletics aid agreement with UGA.
“… If a prospective student-athlete only signs an athletics aid agreement then the institution has no guarantee that student will show up for enrollment while also being recruited by other coaches,” Peal told the AJC.
“This really places that athletics team in a bad position for planning for the upcoming year if there is no binding agreement. This results in no accountability on the student’s behalf but the institution is accountable for providing the athletics aid.
“Contrary to what some people report, the NLI is a two-way agreement between the student and the institution and there is a release process if the NLI signee chooses to request it. Hopefully because a parent or legal guardian has to sign the NLI with the prospective student-athlete if under the age of 21, that individual is assisting the student in understanding what making a commitment means.”
I agreed with some of Ms. Peal’s point, and I told her so. But then I asked this — Isn’t it fair to say the same about the colleges, who put the (recruit) in a “bad position” with college coaches that leave for another job the day after signing day — as if they deceived and tricked a kid into signing the NLI?
(ESPN.com’s Max Olson tweeted out this on Friday: “By my count, at least 25/65 programs in Power 5 conference schools have had coaching staff changes since signing day. Crazy.”)
“Yes, that is a fair statement and that is why I say it is a two-way agreement,” Peal said. “Both parties are making a commitment, not just one. As for deceiving a kid into signing, this is something that institution needs to deal with and if the NLI signee asks for a release due to this reason, the institution should consider the circumstances.”
Perhaps the most important thing that Ms. Peal revealed had to do with the proposed early signing period for football for next year. It would begin on Dec. 16 and last for 72 hours, per CBSSports. The CCA will vote on an early signing period in June.
Will there be a provision for (football recruits) who sign early but there is a coaching change at the school they sign with by the regular February period? Is that a consideration (in the proposal)?
“At this point the football early signing recommendation is with the football playing conferences to discuss,” said Peal. “In June, the recommendation will be voted on by the CCA. Currently there is no exception for a coaching change with any of the signing periods. This was not part of the working group’s recommendation.”
More background on Roquan Smith …
The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is believed to be one of the first big-time football prospects in recruiting history to opt against signing an NLI on signing day or after – which could change the landscape of football recruiting. It has been the talk of the recruiting world over the last 10 days.
After nearly getting burned by UCLA, Smith turned the recruiting world upside down by revealing that he would not sign the NLI, the NCAA document which was called the “worst contract in American sports” by Sports Illustrated this week.
Smith was labeled as “revolutionary” in a Thursday column by CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd, while the Washington Post wrote an article with the headline of “How Roquan Smith might end up empowering future high school football stars.” Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com suggested Smith might be “the Rosa Parks of college football recruits.”
One of Georgia’s top high school coaches was asked about Smith this week, and he mentioned the name of Curt Flood, who is legendary for opening the door for free agency in professional baseball.
Last Wednesday, Smith committed to UCLA over UGA in front of ESPN cameras. But he decided against turning in his NLI after reports surfaced later that day that Bruins defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich had accepted a job with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
Smith said Ulbrich had told him on the eve of signing day that he had “declined” the job offer from the Falcons, per UGASports. On Thursday, Ulbrich (now with the Falcons) declined comment to the AJC about Smith’s claim.