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Should college football have 2 signing periods?

[ 0 ] May 20, 2013 |

If Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads had his way, he’d only sweat out the rest of the summer and early fall while his top recruit, already verbally committed to the Cyclones, plays footsie with other programs.

He’d have an opportunity to lock up Urbandale receiver Allen Lazard and other high school seniors-to-be who accepted his scholarship offer much earlier than currently allowed.

They’d be signed three months before the traditional February National Letter of Intent signing period.

“I’d even be in favor of it if I was at a school that won a national championship the past three years,” Rhoads said. “The haves don’t want it. It’s more of the have-nots that do.”

The topic is relevant as the state’s top two high school recruiting commitments for 2014 have been offered scholarships by two of the country’s most high-profile programs — despite already agreeing to accept scholarships at Iowa State and Iowa.

Lazard committed to Rhoads in December, but plans to visit Notre Dame in June. Three months after guard Ross Pierschbacher of Cedar Falls committed to Iowa last <FZ,1,0,11>January, Alabama coach Nick Saban offered.

Both players said recently they plan to honor their word. That doesn’t make it any easier on coaches, however, as their top recruits are on high-profile speed dial.

“It would be nice for prospects to sign at some early date, and not have to worry about people knocking on their door in December and January,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has said.

Coaches know recruits change their minds right up to the day they sign national letters, thus the desire for an additional, earlier signing period.

“I look at it like this,” Rhoads said. “Certain kids make reservations, like you would at a hotel. It’s not a commitment, it’s a reservation.

“They have that room guaranteed until they don’t want it anymore, and then they cancel that reservation and they go someplace else and stay.”

Tom Lemming, a Midwest-based talent scout, wouldn’t even mind having an early signing period in July or August.

“If you’ve committed and already know where you’re going, then you should be allowed to return to as much normalcy as there can be during your last year of high school,” Lemming said.

That’s not only normalcy for the recruit, but also high school coaches and college coaches.

“I think it’d be good for everyone if they had the option to get it done and out of the way,” West Des Moines Dowling coach Tom Wilson said. “It would take pressure off the kids. College coaches can quit recruiting them at that point.”

Lazard says July or August might be a little early. November or December, he said, would be perfect.

“Some things could still happen between August and November,” Lazard said Monday. “So I’d prefer waiting until November.”

He said he will honor his Iowa State commitment.

“I’ll probably tell my coach to shut it down in November,” he said. “No more calls. Stress-free. If I would decide to switch, which won’t happen, it would be before November.”

That’s what Dowling’s Wilson went through with Amara Darboh, who committed to Michigan in December 2011, two months before he formalized it with his signature.

“Amara told me to not let other coaches talk to him,” Wilson said. “He was done. He told Michigan he was going there, and he wasn’t changing his mind.”

That didn’t deter coaches from calling.

“I told a lot of them that Amara didn’t want to talk to anyone,” Wilson said.

All this discussion isn’t coming out of the blue; indeed, the national letter of intent signing date could be moving up.

“There have been discussions over the past few years about moving the signing date earlier in football,” said Susan Peal of the National Letter of Intent program, which is administered by the Collegiate Commissioners Association. “I am anticipating that the commissioners will discuss earlier signing dates for all sports that have later signing dates, to make sure the signing periods align with the changing recruiting landscape.”

The NCAA is in the process of revamping recruiting, altering some rules in various sports, and changing dates during which recruits can be contacted.

“The NCAA recruiting rules are going through changes with earlier access to prospective student-athletes,” Peal said.

A USA Today report two years ago showed that 73 percent of the nation’s major college football coaches desired an earlier signing date.

Critics of an earlier date cite potential coaching changes between the end of a season and February. Some claim more time is needed to build relationships between recruits and coaches.

“If recruits are undecided, then the February date works for them,” Lemming said. “But if all they’re waiting for is that date in February, then they should be able to get it done earlier.”

It would alleviate that nerve-wracking interim between commitment and signing, especially for schools .

“Over a third of the recruits who commit end up visiting someplace else and then switching,” Lemming said. “They’ve been given the wrong signal by adults – that it’s OK, to give your word to go somewhere, and then go somewhere else.

“Every school does it. They’re sending a message to high school kids that it’s OK, if you’ve given your word, (but) it’s OK to break it — as long as it’s to us.”

That won’t change without an early signing period.

“This really shouldn’t be the case,” Wilson said, “but the recruiting probably really gets started once they’ve committed in some instances.

“You’re trying to keep them.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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