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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Should football have an early signing period?

    Save the mid-level programs

    If you Wildcat football fans have hopes of seeing your team playing in January on a Bowl Champion Series stage, then you should hope the NCAA instills an early signing period, as UA head coach Mike Stoops believes.

    Nowadays, thanks in part to the line the BCS has drawn between the elite and mid-level programs, recruiting has become more than a process; it is a battle.

    Big-time schools like Texas or Ohio State are stealing recruits from lesser Division I-A schools.

    Mid-level programs like Arizona work extra hard throughout the year calling young recruits, leaving numerous text messages, making visits, getting to know their families – all so they can get the player’s word that he will sign with their teams.

    However, as the February signing date approaches, bigger-name schools often come along and snatch away the players’ verbal commitments. This usually happens when the bigger-name schools lose their first or second choices and opt for their third option.

    If you think a hot high school football star is going to choose to keep his commitment to a mid-level program over the glory of playing for a school like USC or national champion Florida, you can forget it.

    This is one issue Stoops is very bitter about. In last week’ssigning-day press conference, he accused Oregon of trying to “”steal”” his recruits.

    Recruiting thievery is problematic because teenagers often have trouble deciding which video game to play, much less which school.

    An easy solution is for the NCAA to allow an early-signing period at some point in the summer after a recruit’s junior season. Teams don’t have to sign all of their players at this time, but it would allow mid-level programs to solidify their commitments on paper so they don’t have to worry about having their recruits stolen.

    If these programs can hold on to more of their top recruits, they will have a better chance of succeeding in the exhaustive process of moving up the BCS rankings.

    – Bobby Stover
    sports writer

    Start with nixing texting

    To stave off a lot of stressed-out college football recruiters endangering their sanity – not to mention their coifed hairlines – UA head coach Mike Stoops has suggested creating a second earlier national signing day, months before the first week of February.

    This would limit rival schools from throwing wrenches into fine-tuned sales pitches. But I posit: hate the player, not the game.

    In this case, the elephant in the room is text-messaging. It can be used to woo prospects all year long – NCAA rules currently do not restrict the volume of texting – and it’s perhaps the most efficient means of killing an oblivious 17-year-old’s commitment.

    Take Illinois head coach Ron Zook. His endless texting to prospects not only put him on the fast track to carpel tunnel syndrome but also illicited outcry from high-profile programs like Notre Dame.

    The Irish have insisted that unless Zook cheated somehow – i.e., used his opposable moneymakers to sprinkle seeds of doubt in athletes’ heads – there’s no way he could have convinced wide receiver Arrelious Bean and defensive end Martez Wilson, both five-star prospects, to suit up for one of the Big Ten Conference’s perennially mediocre teams. (Both players, it should be said, were also considering Notre Dame.)

    Whatever Zook’s fault, the situation has prompted a new wave of debate about what can and should be done to protect programs whose successful hauls have come through persistence and grit – like Arizona’s and Illinois’, Stoops has said – instead of gossip and trash-talk.

    Moving signing day up a few months isn’t that great of a solution. Sure, teams could secure a few desired players early, money in the bank. But what happens if a top prospect suffers a career-ending injury during his senior season? National letters-of-intent are nonrefundable, the last I checked.

    Another snag is finding the ideal date. August could work, but that would require a complete overhaul of the current recruiting schedule. It might also handcuff schools who develop a slew of roster needs over the ensuing six months (based on injuries, academic eligibility issues, etc.) but no longer have enough scholarships to address them.

    A quicker, easier solution would be to monitor and punish any texting by recruiters – say, by taking away schools’ opportunities to meet with prospects in person. That might level things for honest, hardworking recruiters suffering from back-door politics.

    – Tom Knauer
    senior sports writer

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