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DI to consider early signing period in football

Change intended to improve football recruiting environment

High school football prospects could experience greater transparency in the recruiting process if a new football recruiting model introduced by the Division I Council is adopted.

The heavily debated proposal focuses on four areas: camps and clinics; revising the recruiting calendar; regulating employment of individuals associated with prospects; and coaching limits.

The proposal would make accommodations for two, 72-hour early signing periods beginning on the last Wednesday in June and in mid-December. The December date is also the initial time  junior college players can sign a National Letter of Intent.

Because the Division I Collegiate Commissioners Association provides governance oversight for the National Letter of Intent program, the Council will ask the commissioners’ association to adopt the changes to the signing periods for Division I football.

The Division I Football Oversight Committee, spearheaded by months of work by a football recruiting working group, recommended the proposal.

Currently, the only signing period for high school football prospects begins the first Wednesday in February. Coaches and administrators have discussed creating an early signing period for years, and the Football Oversight Committee studied the issue thoroughly. Ultimately, members believe they have developed a recruiting model that balances the interests of all involved.

“The working group did a deep dive on recruiting from beginning to end, and I think what we came up with as a proposal is both student-athlete-friendly and coach- and staff-friendly,” said Bob Bowlsby, chair of the Football Oversight Committee and commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. “We hit a sweet spot.”

Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, serves on the Football Oversight Committee. Berry said the committee has been thoughtful and engaged in the critical matters of the game and is prepared to think nontraditionally.

“The group has identified some great proposals that will continue to be vetted moving forward. It is a perfect starting point in getting these matters resolved,” Berry said. “Our student-athletes have asked for an earlier access point, and as coaches we are respectful of their desire for that. This concept of an earlier time frame in conjunction with our camps makes great sense.  Our first filter in making any of these decisions is whether or not it is good for the student-athletes.”

The proposal would be effective for the 2017-18 signing year.

Additional assistant coach

Changes to the recruiting calendar to accommodate earlier National Letter of Intent signing periods are one of the four areas of focus in the proposed Division I football recruiting model.  Increasing the limit on the number of assistant coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision from nine to 10 is another.

FBS programs can have a maximum of 85 players who receive grants-in-aid. Additionally, most programs have walk-on players. The Football Oversight Committee felt the addition of another coaching staff member will benefit football players.

“There was unanimity around the table on the addition of a 10th assistant coach being allowed (in FBS),” Bowlsby said. “We feel it is appropriate from a student-athlete welfare standpoint. The ratio of coaches to student-athlete is much higher in football than other sports, and this helps address that.”

The Football Oversight Committee also is aware of the growing size of the staff dedicated to football programs around the country. The committee plans to examine this issue during the upcoming year.