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Early Signing Period for Football Likely Coming

The SEC is not happy about it.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

There aren't many times where the SEC finds itself defeated on big issues. It was instrumental in the advent of the BCS, and the College Football Playoff more closely matches its original vision for it than those of some of the other power conferences. It was late to the conference TV network game, but not even a year in, the SEC Network is arguably the greatest success of any. It even weathered the oversigning saga of a few years back by enacting rules that didn't really require schools to change their behavior much (or at all, in most cases).

The league is on a bit of a cold streak right now, though. It doesn't seem as though it will convince anyone to jump on its crusade against satellite camps, and now, it's looking like it will lose on the issue of an early signing period:

An early signing period for college football is close to becoming a reality after years of debate and discussion about giving prospects the opportunity to end their recruitment before February.

The Collegiate Commissioners Association, which administers the national letter of intent recruits sign to make their verbal commitments to a school binding, will meet next week in Asheville, North Carolina, and are expected to vote Tuesday or Wednesday on a proposal to create a new three-day signing period in December. ...

''Seeing the rule approved is a distinct possibility,'' said Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, who has led the committee assigned with coming up with a proposal.

The issue of an early signing period is not a new one. Here, for instance, is an article with some quotes from Nick Saban, Mark Richt, and Derek Dooley on the topic from 2012.

The idea behind an early signing period is that it will make things easier for both players and coaches. For players who are truly committed to their schools of choice, they can go ahead and sign shortly after their senior seasons are over and not have to deal with the hassle of being badgered by college coaches for a few months more. Coaches then don't have to "babysit", to use Saban's word from 2012, those players who go ahead and sign early.

But if an early signing period was such an open-and-shut case, we'd already have one by now. Some coaches don't want a signing period in December because that means they'll have to spend more time on recruiting during the season, which means they'll either do less work on coaching and game planning or lose even more sleep and down time (or both).

The SEC has issues with the December time frame specifically:

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has said the conference has a range of concerns - enough to fill a three-page memo - with the proposal, including the impact it would have on in-season recruiting for college coaches and high school teams.

''What happens in early December when conferences are playing championship games? When the next week, people are in final exams and you're asking some prospects to sign national letters of intent midweek during their own state high school playoffs?'' Sankey said at the SEC spring meetings in Destin last month. ...

SEC coaches are not necessarily against the idea of an early signing day for recruits who have not wavered from nonbinding verbal commitments, but most of them prefer it to be the Monday after Thanksgiving. But SEC administrators would rather just stick with the status quo than switch to what has been proposed.

The idea has come up from time to time of a signing period happening before athletes' senior high school seasons like what basketball has, but again, turning to Saban's comments from '12:

"If you make it August 1st, then high school coaches are going to scream and say, 'Well, the guy knows he's going to this school or that school, what's his motivation to play well for me in his senior year?' Now I know you can say, 'Well, that doesn't happen in basketball,' but I think basketball and football and really not the same, because of the contact part of football and all that kind of stuff."

The proposal for the December signing period includes a mandatory review after two years, so it might end up being a temporary element to the recruiting calendar.

The SEC is the only I-A conference to speak out against this proposal. The Group of Five conferences are all in favor, and ACC and Pac-12 coaches voted in favor of it. Ohio State's AD said recently that most Big Ten schools were in favor as well. The Big 12 is characteristically divided enough that it has no consensus right now.