The semantics of college football recruiting need a revision. Players make oral commitments but there is no commitment required, in any real sense of the word. Player A has committed to School B. Schools C, D, and E keep on recruiting him, or maybe some start recruiting him, seeing the commitment as more like an advertisement.
There’s nothing against the rules with any of this.
“A reservation,” Temple coach Geoff Collins said, is a better word than commitment.
The schools pressure players to commit, or the schools will move on. So players commit. They make the reservation, don’t have to hold their place with a credit card, no deposit required. (And if the coach changes, that reservation sometimes gets lost.)
This football recruiting season added wrinkles. Instead of schools gaining commitments through 2017 and then having to hope that word held to the first Wednesday in February, the NCAA added a December three-day signing window.
“It was awesome,” Collins said in a phone interview last week.
Temple’s head coach has been on both sides of the poaching ledger at his different stops. He’s casting no aspersions. He just feels that for Temple, having this early period was crucial.
“We had done a really good job of targeting a bunch of guys who fit into our profile, getting them committed, staying on them,” Collins said. “But the ability to sign them early takes the babysitting out of the next six weeks.”
Those 25 December signees would have been objects of worry right now, until the signatures arrived on Feb. 7, under the old system. (There still is a February signing period. Collins expects maybe four to six more signatures.)
“A school like Southern Cal or Nebraska or whoever, they might lose a commitment, they say, ‘Hey, Temple, they do a great job …’ ”
… Let’s look at their commitments, see if we should get anyone to flip.
“Look at the top 10 programs in the history of college football,” Collins said. “They’re all going after the same top 100 players, the same top 250. At some point, they’re going to realize which ones they’re going to get, which they’re not going to get. Now they have to supplement. There’s a trickle-down effect.”
Another wrinkle: The December period pushes the recruiting calendar right into the season. Waiting until it’s over just wasn’t going to work.
“We had a [bowl] game the next night,” Collins said of the first day of signings.
That’s not to say the big boys got caught flat-footed. Clemson and Georgia signed big classes right away. The schools that got the best of those top 100 still were the big winners. Collins said the coaches’ association researched this current recruiting calendar and reported that 94 percent of signing slots were used up in December. Every school understood there was no waiting.
The old system was built on a fantasy that colleges could watch seniors during their senior season, then finish up the recruiting afterward. A perfect plan in a world that hasn’t existed for decades. At Temple, for instance, they’d seen all their signees at their camp or a satellite camp last summer, which means they were identified earlier.
“I think in major college football, for a long time now, I’d say 85 percent of your recruiting class has been committed for nine months,” Penn State coach James Franklin told reporters at a pre-Fiesta Bowl press conference. ”So there’s an aspect of it toward the end where you’re just kind of going and checking on a guy that you really don’t need to be checking on. He’s solid. His family is solid. His high school coach is solid and they are coming, but you still feel like you need to keep going back and dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”
Franklin gave an example of an assistant calling a committed recruit in December — “He was talking to the dad and said, ‘Hey, I would like to come to the house Wednesday.’
“The dad was like, ‘Why?’
“I just want to make sure that we’ve got everything covered and you guys are really comfortable and feel good about this whole process.”
“He’s like, ‘Coach, I could not be more comfortable, and I really don’t want you coming to the house again.’ Like leave-us-alone type of deal.”
Franklin likes the new process for the same reason Collins does. They’ve done their work. Who needs the babysitting? Franklin said he doesn’t like another new legislated aspect as much, adding spring visits, which Franklin feels is adding recruiting burdens.
If you’re going to find programs pressured by the new signing period, go with mid-pack Power 5 schools. Say they’ve lost home-state studs to the big-timers, after considerable efforts. They need Plan B and have less time to implement it.
Collins said the new system is particularly tough on schools that changed coaching staffs. So little time to do the job. Because of this issue, the pressure to fire and then hire will only increase, to make it all happen earlier, since everyone understands that the recruiting calendar is as important as the game schedule.
“I think everything is accelerated,” Collins said.
The bottom line, though, is that overall the December period makes sense. It’s rare when schools outside the Power 5 feel as if a rule is good for them. So call this a good one. The NCAA should commit to it.