Will College Football Have an Early Signing Period?
By Michael Chung
The Buckeyes recently received new mid-year agreements from Marcelys Jones, Stephen Collier, Sean Neurnberger and Curtis Samuel. What does this mean? The Buckeyes and the LSU Tigers (Brandon Harris signed—remember him?) were beneficiaries, but more colleges will reap the benefits in the coming days.
What exactly is this “mid-year-agreement?” Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes, “Last month, the NCAA stated that a prospective student-athlete (PSA) who was on track to graduate early from high school could sign a financial-aid agreement as long as the participating college establishes that the PSA is enrolled in all coursework necessary to graduate high school at the midyear point (but they don’t have to graduate early if they opt not to do so at that time). It’s all explained HERE by NCAA bylaw expert John Infante and profiled in this ESPN article.”
This agreement is not a binding national letter-of-intent so a kid can sign it and still go to another school. In the case of the four who signed, Ohio State is obligated to provide a scholarship but these two still have the freedom to sign a NLI at another university.
Sounds like a win-win for the athlete and “no-win” for the school, not so fast. Michael Carvell goes on to write, “It’s very simple: There’s a big advantage here for colleges, especially with high-profile recruits. If a college gets a kid to sign a financial-aid agreement early, then the college is no longer restricted by NCAA rules for “unlimited communication” with in-person contact, home visits and phone calls/texts.
It also permits “publicity” of a recruit by a college, which LSU wasted no time in doing after signing 4-star quarterback Brandon Harris on Thursday with tweets and press releases.
Mark Pantoni also told the world of Marcelys Jones and Curtis Samuel signing these financial agreements via Twitter and later tweeted the Sean Neurnberger and Stephen Collier did the same. Raekwon McMillan has also stated he will graduate early and enroll at a specific university, so he will likely sign this type of agreement after he announces.
Though not a binding agreement, it does further help a university when an athlete signs this. If two schools are vying for the same player and one school can offer this mid-year agreement while another cannot, advantage to “school A” who can make the offer because of the level of contact they can have.
Here is another benefit for schools given by Michael Carvell who writes, “Gainesville coach Bruce Miller told the AJC on Friday afternoon that he was "pretty sure" that Watson (DeShaun) had already signed his financial-aid agreement with Clemson . . . If so, again, that would permit Clemson to have "unlimited communication" with Watson until he signs his NLI. In other words, if Ohio State's Urban Meyer or Auburn's Gus Malzahn drop in at Gainesville and try to have in-person meetings with Watson, then Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris can follow up each time with his own in-person visit. And meet and call Watson every day after that on an unlimited basis because Watson signed the financial-aid agreement . . . If the kid signs the financial aid with one college and then starts to sway to another school, then the first school can "camp out" at his high school or neighborhood like all the colleges did in the famous recruitment of Herschel Walker.”
This is just a reminder to all that college football is changing rapidly. The early enrollee was really not in vogue until about 12 years ago at Ohio State, when Maurice Clarett came to OSU early and ended up starting as a true freshman. Now that schools have as many as half or more of their commits enroll early, new measures need to be taken and this mid-year agreement is the start of something new for college football recruiting and will change the way recruiting is covered. An early signing period, just like an 8 team playoff, is just around the corner.
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