Terps Coach Randy Edsall discusses early signing day proposal

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With football recruits receiving scholarship offers and making oral commitments earlier and earlier into their high school careers, why doesn’t football have an early signing period, as other college sports do?

“I think everyone wants an early signing period,” NCAA associate director of operations Susan Peal told ESPN.com. “It’s just trying to nail down what’s the appropriate date for that.”

According to ESPN, a 32-member panel will “meet in June to review an agenda that includes an early signing period.” Given the national scope of this proposal and the long break between now and the review, college football coaches have begun to weigh in on the issue, or at least reporters have begun to ask and then write about their thoughts.

So, here is what Maryland Coach Randy Edsall thinks.

“If we continue to go the way we’re going right now with the recruiting process, there definitely has to be an early signing period,” he said Monday morning after his team’s fifth spring practice. “Definitely. If they continue to go the way they’re going right now with recruiting, there needs to be an early signing period.”

At first glance, it sounds like Edsall supports the early signing period, much like some of his colleagues, but it was actually more a sentiment of resignation. Edsall seemed to be saying that if freshmen and sophomores are receiving scholarship offers before their high school transcripts are fully developed, then the natural move would be an early signing period. But he doesn’t consider that a positive development.

“I don’t want to be bringing kids in for visits the summer of their junior year because you don’t have all the academic information,” he said. “With what’s happening in 2016, I think we need to slow the process down rather than speed it up.”

Edsall is referring to the NCAA’s new eligibility standards, adopted in 2012, that will go into effect for the high school class of 2016. Those prospective college athletes must have a 2.3 minimum GPA in their 16 core courses, 10 of which must be completed before their senior years. So with the new academic restrictions, Edsall said, why recruit teenagers when you don’t know whether they’ll even get into school?

Last week, NCAA President Mark Emmert was on campus for various speaking engagements, and Edsall said he spoke with Emmert about the idea of an early signing period. On Monday, he told reporters he would discuss the issue at more length at a later time.

Others have expressed reservations too. Stanford’s David Shaw said it might create a situation where recruits commit, then change their mind, then appeal the NCAA to allow them to switch their pledge. Georgia’s Mark Richt took the time-management route, telling the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that he would be “afraid to change” existing policy, in fear of turning the regular season into “such a recruiting frenzy that you can’t even coach your team on a weekly basis.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.

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Alex Prewitt · March 11, 2014