When the NCAA began its in-depth examination of the state of college football recruiting almost two years ago, the most pressing issues that needed to be addressed were a potential early signing period and satellite camps. The NCAA took big steps toward answering questions about both issues.
On Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Council unveiled components of a new model for college football recruiting, proposing major cutbacks and restrictions to satellite camps and the introduction of two new early signing periods.
The council proposed legislation that would cut the days in a year from 30 to 10 that coaches were allowed to conduct camps. Only coaches permitted to recruit off campus could participate — and the camps would be required to take place on campuses or in the facilities used primarily for practice or competition by member schools. A final vote on the camp changes is planned for April 2017, and if the proposition passes it would essentially end lengthy nationwide barnstorming tours like Jim Harbaugh’s Summer Swarm Tour that drew so much criticism from rival recruiters the past two summers.
The proposed new early signing periods would last 72 hours each — the first would open on the last Wednesday in June and the second at the time of the mid-December junior-college signing period. The topic of early signing has long been debated in college football and was last tabled by the Division I conference commissioners in June 2015. This proposal, if passed by the Division I Collegiate Commissioners Association, would be effective for the 2017-18 signing year. It’s expected to be passed when the commissioners meet again in November.
The proposed changes to the NCAA recruiting model were the result of an examination by the Division I Football Oversight Committee, chaired by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. According to the NCAA, members of the committee sought more transparency in recruiting and a model that balances the interests of all involved.
“The working group did a deep dive on recruiting from beginning to end,” Bowlsby said, “and I think what we came up with as a proposal is both student-athlete-friendly and coach- and staff-friendly. We hit a sweet spot.”
Both plans are expected to pass and have already received unanimous approval from the 10 FBS conferences, a source told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg. While some tweaks are expected, these reforms are expected to be approved and the source said “status quo is not acceptable.”
It’s no surprise college coaches liked the idea of a cutback in the recruiting camp schedule, but thought of suddenly having not just one but three signing periods quickly struck a nerve with recruiters.
A Pac-12 coach said the proposal was a “step in the right direction” but also pointed out the NCAA failed to mention anything about adjusting the recruiting calendar for earlier official visits. With the 2015 early signing period proposal, the NCAA indicated it would be willing to adjust the visit calendar, but nothing was mentioned about changes Wednesday.
“You can’t have a signing period in June without official visits,” the coach said. “But if they do allow them, then it’s a game-changer for college football.”
A Big 12 coach said he supports the idea of adding a mid-December window but said recruiters’ lives “would be miserable” if the mid-June period becomes a reality “without dramatic changes to how everything is done with recruiting.” He also said the NCAA needs to be prepared to release kids from their letters of intents if the June and December periods become a reality because “kids could get f—– by coaching changes.”
A Big Ten assistant feared the early signing periods went too far and pushed football more toward the basketball recruiting calendar.
“I like being able to them play as seniors,” the Big Ten coach said. “We barely get any time to evaluate them as it is. Why speed it up? The decommitments don’t bother me, coaches get paid a lot to recruit, so make them work for it. You can’t compare it to basketball, because the recruiting competition is tougher and the volume of prospects is higher.”
The SEC has been one of the most vocal opponents of an early signing period in the past, but a conference coach admitted he’s come around to the idea and thinks it’ll even benefit the recruits.
“I love the idea now,” he said. “I think it’ll finally make schools think twice about offering kids early with no plan of taking their commitment. If they really want them, they’re going to have to sign them now. That’ll help a recruit truly tell if they’re wanted by that school. ‘If you want me, then sign me.'”
Mitch Sherman and Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.