College basketball has two signings periods. One lasts for about a week in November and the other is a bit longer, running from the middle of April thru the middle of May. Most basketball recruits sign their letter of intent in November and have everything with recruiting out of the way so they can focus completely on their senior seasons.
College football, on the other hand, operates completely differently, as most of us know. The only signing period for football begins on the first Wednesday of February and runs thru April 1.
Due to the late signing period, we see a lot of decommitments, committed prospects take late official visits to other schools, and more general variance. This stuff is even more common today than it was even five years ago.
The first step towards an early signing period was taken this year when recruits who were enrolling early in their college of choice were able to sign early financial-aid agreements, which guaranteed their scholarship to the schools they signed paperwork with and allowed extended contact outside traditional recruiting guidelines between the two parties (the NCAA later pivoted and restricted this only to the first institution you filled out the forms for, though you could still fill them out for multiple schools).
Today, the next step was taken as Susan Peal, the NCAA associate director of operations told ESPN that an early signing period was under consideration and added it's something college athletic directors would like to see happen:
"I think everyone wants an early signing period," Peal said this week. "It's just trying to nail down what's the appropriate date for that."
Peal added that there is more momentum than ever for an early signing period because of all of the changes that are happening in the recruiting world:
"I think there's more momentum now than ever just because of the changes that are happening with recruiting regulations," said Peal, who works closely with the commissioners on topics related to national letters of intent. "The landscape is changing, so it's time to look at it again."
She also told ESPN that most of the disagreements between coaches center around the date that the earlier signing period would commence and end (dates at the beginning of summer, end of summer, and even fall dates have been tossed around). Obviously not all coaches are completely down with this idea. Coaches in the sport's most popular conferences have been well known for flipping recruits committed to other schools close to or on National Signing Day. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops weighed in:
"I know the [Southeastern Conference] coaches are not in favor of changing the recruiting calendar," Kentucky's Mark Stoops said in January. "If things start moving up, it changes the way we've been doing things for a long time."
There are still a lot of things that need to happen before anything like this becomes official, but it's a huge step that this is even being considered by the NCAA. SB Nation Recruiting's Bud Elliott weighted in on the topic, saying it would be interested to see how many players are truly committed to their school.
An early signing period would show just how many commitments are truly committed when given the chance to sign early.— SB Nation Recruiting (@SBNRecruiting) March 7, 2014
As it is now, many prospects treat commitments as dinner reservations. Simply holding a spot.— SB Nation Recruiting (@SBNRecruiting) March 7, 2014
Land-Grant Holy Land will have more on this developing story as more information becomes available. A move like this would certainly shakeup things up in the world of recruiting.