Last year the American Football Coaches Association saw fit to give staffs and recruits a second day in which they could make their college choices official. The first ever December signing day saw a flurry of activity that resulted in ESPNU’s coverage of Wednesday’s traditional National Signing Day, cut from 12 hours down to slightly under 6.
A number of coaches have praised the addition of another signing day. To hear many of them tell it, one signing day in December and one in February gives them a proverbial halftime, a chance to hit pause and make adjustments before they hit the home stretch.
The story coming from the recruits was a little different though. To be fair, you definitely heard a number of kids saying things like “I’ve wanted to play at [school X] all my life. I was happy I could sign and get that over with.” What you also heard though were stories of recruits being pressed throughout the first half of December. Eyabi Anoma, the nation’s top-rated DE, who eventually signed with Alabama, said he ruled out a school that told him if he didn’t sign in December, the school couldn’t guarantee they would answer his calls in February.
That’s more than a little low and it illustrates the problem with adding a December signing day: it has nothing to do with making things easier on the kids being recruited. If that early signing day was really about making sure kids had time to enjoy their senior season of high school football, and more importantly their senior year of high school, it would be in June or July.
Here is an idea that would make things better for everyone except perhaps ESPN. Change National Signing Day to National Signing Period. The day after the CFP National Championship Game should be the start. You can still make the first Wednesday in February its designated end if you would like, but if we are going to keep the early signing day in December, why not let every kid move at his own pace once it passes?
We have heard this idea with elections before, right? Voter turnout would be better if there was a week or two week-long period in which you could cast your vote. I think the same is true of player announcements and celebrations. If a kid is allowed to sign the second he makes his mind up in a designated time window, that is more time he can spend celebrating with his family, friends and coaches.
It would avoid what no doubt befell new Gamecock O-lineman Dylan Wonnum this week. It was Saturday when he announced via social media that he would be joining his brother DJ in Columbia. Do you think that was the end of things for Auburn and Tennessee, the two schools that were supposedly neck and neck with Carolina for Wonnum’s services?
Of course not! I am sure he was inundated with calls from the 334 and 865 area codes. I am sure he received tons of DMs reminding him of Will Muschamp’s historic struggles on offense. This kind of stuff isn’t always ugly, but it can turn that way in a hurry. It only takes one douchebag to create the kind of story that people that aren’t fans of SEC football seek out as evidence of how toxic this culture can be.
That can all be avoided if we do away with this arcane day of ceremony and let Wonnum and any other kid that has received an offer to play college football the chance to sign the second their minds are made up. It may mean a little more work for the coaches, but considering they are the ones making six or seven figures a year, we can occasionally let things break in the favor of the free labor, right? It won’t be the end of the sport.