National Signing Day — which in some quarters has become something akin to a national holiday — might never be the same. In a vote Friday, the NCAA’s Division I Council gave the go-ahead for an early signing date in college football.
The addition of the December signing date, which will join the traditional early February date, was part of a comprehensive reform package to the sport’s recruiting model that included everything from the addition of a 10th assistant coach for FBS programs to significant changes to the summer camp model and the recruiting calendar.
During its annual meeting last January, members of the American Football Coaches Association voted to support the package. Earlier this week, Todd Berry, the AFCA’s executive director and the former coach at Louisiana-Monroe, called it “by far the most sweeping legislative package we’ve had since I’ve been in coaching.”
“There’s been nothing that’s come as close to moving the needle as this,” Berry said. “This isn’t perfect but it’s a big step. We’ve been so caught up in the past with perfection that what happens is nothing ever happens.”
The addition of another assistant coach is effective Jan. 9, 2018 — the day after the College Football Playoff national championship.
The early signing period must be approved by the Collegiate Commissioners Association, which administers the National Letter of Intent program. The CCA meets in June.
The Division I Council also approved a change to the recruiting calendar allowing recruits to take official visits to schools beginning April 1 of their junior year in high school (and ending in June of that year).
Also approved: “individual associated with a prospect” legislation, which would restrict the hiring of coaches or others who are associated with recruits for a two-year period before or after the hire. The rule, which would impact the hiring of high school coaches for support roles on college football staffs, was opposed by some college coaches. But it mirrors a rule in place in college basketball.
The Division I Council also made significant changes to the summer camp model.
FBS coaches will be allowed to conduct camps during a 10-day period in June and July. Camps must take place on campus “or in facilities regularly used by the school for practice or competition.” This effectively ends the practice of “satellite camps,” in which college coaching staffs conducted camps at various locations away from campus.
In a release, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, chair of the Football Oversight Committee, which made the proposals, called the passage of the package “a significant move forward for football recruiting.”
“The entire package of rule changes is friendly for students, their families and their coaches. We will continue to monitor the recruiting environment to make sure the rules work as intended, and we will suggest adjustments when necessary.”
FBS members on the Division I Council voted 14-1 for the proposal.