The NCAA approved an early signing period for football recruiting on Friday, which brings a major change to the recruiting calendar.
The NCAA Division I Council approved legislation to create another National Signing Day on the third Wednesday in December for high school recruits.
The new rule would allow high school recruits to sign with college programs at the same time as junior college players if they choose to do so. However, recruits would still be able wait until the current National Signing Day on the first Wednesday in February.The new rule also allows juniors to start taking official visits to schools from April through most of June.
The rule is expected to be approved by the Conference Commissioners Association, which manages the National Letter of Intent program, in June. The change will go into effect this year.
The American Football Coaches Association came out in favor of the December date at its convention in January. An earlier proposal included another early signing date in June, but coaches were opposed to that idea. Alabama head coach Nick Saban was one of the most vocal opponents of a June signing date.
“I am absolutely, positively against any kind of early signing date, especially a June signing date before a guy plays his senior year,” Saban said in 2016. “If we want to have an early signing date after the season (in December), then I would be more for that.”
The proposal was eventually amended to include just the December date.
The rule would allow recruits who are committed and know where they’re going to sign a binding NLI and end the recruiting process. It would also allow coaching staffs to devote more time to pursuing other prospects over the last month of the cycle, instead of going after players who won’t sign with them anyway.
Many people have concerns for players, however, given that many coaching changes happen around the new proposed date. If a head coach or the player’s lead recruiter were to leave a school soon after that player signed, it is unclear if there will be a provision to allow players out of an NLI under those circumstances.
Under the new rule, this year’s early signing date will fall on Dec. 20.