Scoop Roundtable: Is Bo Pelini's idea to eliminate National Signing Day a good one?
Published: Wednesday, 04 June 2014 17:39
by Zach Barnett
On Wednesday, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini fronted an idea that would eliminate National Signing Day - as well as the possibility for early signing days - by in essence making every day its own signing day. Pelini wants schools to have the ability to offer a kid a scholarship whenever they want, and then, in turn, allowing that player to sign his National Letter of Intent on the spot. An offer is an offer, and a commitment is a commitment. "If somebody has offered a kid, let him sign, it's over," Pelini told ESPN.com. "That will stop some of the things that are happening -- people just throwing out offers, some of them with really no intention of taking a kid."
Is this a good idea and, if so, why? Are there any potential downsides and, if so, what are they? We asked the Scoop staff to each give their views of Pelini's admittedly radical - and possibly brilliant - new idea.
Zach: As I wrote in the original article, we all accept commitments when there is no immediacy attached to them. Ask me to speak at your charity event on June 23, 2017 and I will accept on the spot. Ask me to speak at your charity event next Tuesday and I'm thinking up an excuse to get out of it. Pelini's idea unquestionably puts a hefty amount of accountability behind a scholarship offer.
That said, I do see some downsides. Even with the knowledge that one offer could bind a player to a program for three years before he even enters college, I see some coaches offering kids as freshmen and I don't think it's a good idea for anyone involved. With how slanted the NLI language already is against the players, I just don't think it's beneficial to put that piece of paper in front of a 14-year-old and expect him to have any sort of inclination what he's actually signing. I think it would lead to too many cases of schools attaching themselves to 15-year-olds that have physically peaked, and too many 15-year-olds committing themselves to schools before they reach their full potential. My suggestion is to adopt Pelini's idea, but wait until the second semester's of a prospect's junior year. By that point, enough data has been transferred for the two sides to know a proper amount about each other. But are you then essentially creating a new singing day 13 months ahead of its current date? Quite possibly.
In short, I like the idea but I need to see some boundary lines in place.
Doug: The way I see things, there just isn't enough wrong with the current model to substantiate such a radical change. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot wrong with the current recruiting model, but throwing national signing day out the window creates more problems than it fixes.
In theory it sounds great, but as a former small college coach I also understand that there are thousands and thousands of high school players out there holding onto hope for that Division I scholarship offer, when realistically their highlight film screams Division III/NAIA-type potential. Eliminating National Signing Day altogether removes a day where fantasy becomes reality to a lot of those guys, which in turn further extends the recruiting process for those small college coaches. And most of those guys are already recruiting year round to field a roster that makes the people up in admissions happy enough to ease up on their cases for another few months before the round of tuition deposits are due.
Also, keep in mind the immense pressure it puts on coaches out on the road when they do offer a scholarship. Every staff now has to be 100% prepared for that recruit to commit on the spot, which could really mess with your big board top recruits. For the programs signing the one and two star kids, this probably seems logical, but it presents some problems to the programs offering both blue chippers and two star guys. 90 percent of the time you'd rather have that blue-chipper, but it's the less heralded players that are more likely to jump on their biggest and baddest offer on the table, especially late in the process when all the cards have been shown.
Scott: Philosophically I agree with the idea and points being made by Bo Pelini, but I struggle to wrap my mind around how I would actually recommend implementing this because I see issues. For example, what happens if the player who signed an NLI in his junior year breaks his leg that summer and is a decidedly different athlete the following year? Or, the unfortunate alternative... a high school athlete doesn't develop as planned and the university wants to back out of his offer because of "a physical issue" that really isn't there.
The part of Pelini's proposal/suggestion that I like most is that this would presumably instill some accountability within the process and the profession, thereby allowing more transparency into who does things the right way. Overall, I'm pretty intrigued by this idea and would like to see a working group of coaches address the idea and see if they think they can make this work.
One change I'd like to suggest would be to not allow any coach initiated contact prior to the beginning of the high school athlete's junior season (if a player wants to take an unofficial visit prior to then that's fine with me). I don't live in this recruiting world day in and day out so I'd be open to hearing the case for earlier or later dates, but it seems to me (from a distance) that there is way too much early contact in the current structure - and this is part of the problem Pelini's suggestion is hoping to curb in the first place.