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Should Recruits Who Sign Early Have an Out-clause if Their Coach Leaves?

One of the downsides of the Early Signing Period

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Caution: Half-developed ideas abound

The Early Signing Period has brought many changes to the recruiting season this year. It’s been discussed all around the internet, including this site, and many of the comments have included how much of a positive it has been for Group of 5 schools. Many schools have secured a bulk of their class and then are able to avoid being poached by other schools come January. So it’s a win right?

The other side of the coin has also been on display the past few weeks as the coaching carousel has continued to turn. Some moves have been minor, such as DL coach Steve Caldwell and CB coach Ashley Ambrose, both of them at Boise State, have moved on to other schools following the December signing period and well after recruits signed their letters of intent.

Those examples pale in comparison to Arizona firing coach Rich Rodriguez just days after they secured 16 members of their 2018 class, leaving those players tied to a school that would be brining in an entirely new coach and system. Unfortunately, some believed that the 2018 players were already behind compared to the new 2018 players which would be brought in, as well as the 2019 players who weren’t even committed yet because both of those groups would be the new staff’s players and would fit the system better.

So is the early signing period helpful or hurtful? Does it benefit the teams or the recruits? Are the newly signed players experiencing security or are they now trapped in their situations?

With anything, new rules often need to be modified after a year or two once flaws have become apparent. While there are numerous benefits, one flaw was made obvious this season. Recruits usually commit to coaches, despite what people might otherwise wish. And when the coach leaves, the recruit may get cold feet or wish to go somewhere else. Should that be allowed?

This article proposes that the answer be yes.

If a player signs in December, but then either their position coach, or the head coach leaves, that player should be allowed to exercise an opt-out clause that would allow them to reopen their recruitment.

This clause would likely need to have some restrictions of its own. Some ideas from this include, but are far from limited to:

  • The player has a deadline, say 1-2 weeks following the departure of a coach for example, in order to exercise his opt-out clause.
  • If a player has already enrolled on campus when the coach leaves, he cannot use his opt-out clause (and unfortunately, this may not protect a player who is planning to enroll early, as time would be extremely short).
  • This would not protect players if a coach leaves after February.
  • To hold schools accountable, possibly instituting a window of when programs can hire their staffs or when a coach can leave. Or a date of when staffs need to be filled. Not sure what this would look like exactly but it would be nice to have schools have a deadline of their own.

This ideas are far from fully developed. However, it’s a start to a conversation which needs to happen. When improvement can be made, a discussion should start immediately. But since it doesn’t hurt the schools, it may not happen anytime soon.

This current system is good, but far from perfect. It may solve some issues and create others. In fact, it could possibly make recruiting even wilder than it already is. However, rules and policies should protect or help the player more often than not. The Early Signing Period benefits teams and is a good option for players if they use it. However, it could become a trap to some players if a coach ends up leaving. In order to prevent that, giving them the option of an out-clause or something similar would be a good start.

Agree or disagree? Have a better idea? Have a reason why this wouldn’t work well? Discuss it in the comments below.