Why Not Make Recruiting More Like Free Agency?

With the rash of decommitments this year, especially the two felt by Notre Dame fans today, it’s gotten a lot of people talking about an early signing period much like college basketball has.  A number of schools, not just Notre Dame, got burned by late decommitments which really hurt their recruiting classes after they had stopped recruiting a particular position.

Since this is a Notre Dame blog, I’m going to the Irish as my example.  Notre Dame had three big decommitments over the last two weeks.  First Justin Trattou bolted for Florida then Greg Little for UNC and Chris Little for Georgia today.  The fact that these three individuals did not want to come to Notre Dame does not bother me nearly as much as the fact that Notre Dame could have used the scholarships they were saving for these three elsewhere and/or spent their recruiting efforts on other players.

Some people will say its the fault of the coaching staff for stopping the recruiting at say wide receiver when the Irish had Duval Kamara, Greg Little, and Golden Tate “committed,” but what message does it send to your recruits if you keep after other receivers when you tell them you don’t need any more?  The Notre Dame staff made a commitment to these kids that they were done at receiver so they stopped recruiting wide outs out of respect for them.

Same goes with Justin Trattou.  The Irish locked up Trattou and Kerry Neal very early and as a result felt comfortable targeting just a few select defensive ends – Martez Wilson, Ben Martin, Everson Griffen – figuring they would land at least one of them.  If they struck out, they still felt they had two strong ends in this class.  As a result a guy like Jason Peters got slow played and said the reason Notre Dame was never in the mix was because he didn’t build a relationship with the ND staff.

All of this is making the topic of an early signing period very popular across message boards this evening.  Weis even mentioned it numerous times today in the press conference and on a few of the television and radio appearances he made.

Weis acknowledged the fact that there’s a lot of logistical stumbling blocks in the way of this so here are some really off the cuff thoughts from me on the subject.

Free agency in the NBA is already a little like college recruiting.  Their is a “courtship” period where players can make visits with teams to see where they want to play, but there is a waiting period before they can sign any contracts.  Granted, that “courtship” period is merely a few weeks, but none the less its a bit similar to recruiting.

Why not take that mold and apply it to college football recruiting?  Let recruits take their official visits over the summer and set a date for September 1 for when they can officially start signing Letters Of Intent.  Once they are ready to select a school, there would be no “commitments.”  Rather, when they were ready to select a school, they would simply sign the letter of intent.

Instead of having two signing periods, just have one that starts a lot earlier because even with an early signing day and a late one, there will still be decommitments.  Say an early signing day is set for September 1 and the NCAA gives recruits a one or two week period to sign a LOI in this period.  That would still leave roughly four and a half months for recruits to “commit” and then decommit on the latter signing day.

Giving a recruit the ability to sign a LOI any time after September 1, however, would make them think a lot longer and harder about making their decision if they knew the decision they were making was actually binding and final.  It would also allow for a lot more honesty in the recruiting game between coaches and recruits.  There would be no more, “I’m still committed to you, but I’m just looking a school X this weekend,” and conversely, coaches could easily point to the number of signed LOI’s they have at a particular position and tell a recruit just how many more spots they have.

Of course there would be negatives to a system like this such as coaching changes affecting kids who have already signed LOI’s, but provisions could be made for such occasions where a signed recruit would have X number of days to cancel their LOI if they a position coach, coordinator, or entire staff was let go.

All of this is very argumentative and like I said, these are just some off the cuff remarks that I’ve had while dissecting all that went down today and this recruiting year.

Your Thoughts?

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  1. Cloudy 11 years ago

    Terrific thoughts Frankie V.
    It is obvious that college football recruiting rules have not kept up with the times: With the media pressures and all that goes with the media, the recruiting machines (Scout & Rivals) and combines the young athletes and colleges (coaches) endure, not to mention the huge money involved, it appears a rules restructuring is necessary. Actually a compliance standard should be enacted after what seems to be the Wild West out there in football recruiting; at minimum A Code of Ethics. These rules or whatever they would be called should apply directly to the scholarships a school has to offer each year, (Penalties for infractions should be Extremely Harsh to the point of being unfair.). Break a rule; lose a scholarship for every infraction no matter how minor with no deferment. Should a coach get caught misleading a student athlete to gain trust of that student his penalty should be Most Severe, and I say that because this student cannot take back his time misspent under the wrong tutelage, and being at the wrong school can impact an entire life and career. However if a student athlete wants to change their mind on their own so be it, no penalty should apply to that student. Students must remain exempt from adult fodder. (However if a student uses the rules or codes to play one University off another and puts the schools at risk, that student should lose one full year from entering college via a sport scholarship and not play, workout at a school facility or practice any sport at college for one full year and may be re-introduced into the system the following school year.)

    We see that LOI day is not working well so change it. A school should have some protection from the decommited athlete. A school shouldn’t have to take it on the chin b/c some stripling decides last moment his Daddy likes vacationing in Daytona in November so I’ll go to a Florida school instead.

    As far as the thought someone signs with the School and not the Coach is a little off the mark. When considering a University for athletics or academics, an incoming student must always view the teacher and their records as such, for it is not the school that teaches but the professor and coach who do. When it comes to signing; if the coach or staff change during the recruiting year or after the LOI, a student athlete should be excused from their original decision if they choose and not be scrutinized, b/c of some University business decision.

    There will always be ways to scoot around rules and codes, but the harsher the penalties the more unlikely the infractions.

    This whole thing with Vaas and his text-messaging, or just text-messaging in its self has got to change. It feels like dialing drunk and crying to the ex-lover. If that happened to me, I’d see a judge for a restraining order. Perspective Please!

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  2. Shawn 11 years ago

    Hey, Pat…you’re arguments don’t fly, bud.

    Average recruiting class? Last I heard, the #8 class in the nation is far from average. Defensively speaking, yes…a bit average. But you can’t paint Charlie as the sole reason. Poor regular-season performances, coaching changes and talk of changing the defensive scheme can deter a number of recruits. Not to mention in Charile’s presser he promises to play the recruiting game differentlyl next year. A.K.A. – he’s taking responsibility. He also highlighted the responsiblity of the ‘verbaled’ players, and aluded to the reponsibility of the NCAA to review the process.

    No, Pat…Charlie isn’t the legend that he hoped we would be – Legends are made over time, not in 2 years. But over those 2 years he’s made average players excellent, have won games that we probably would have lost 3 years ago, and have brought the Irish to 2 BCS bowls. Elite? Not yet. Solid? Yes. But no longer mediocre. With the past 2 talent-laden recruiting classes, we look forward to charlie making even greater strides, perhaps ending in that cherished title of Legend after all.

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  3. Nebraska 11 years ago


    Why should Notre Dame be seeking top recruiting targets in the first place? Notre Dame hasn’t won a bowl game since the guys that they were recruiting were in diapers. Why on earth should they be taking recruits away from the USCs, Michigans, Ohio States, LSUs, Floridas, etc. Look at Miami and FSU. Both those schools ruled the 1980s and 1990s, dropped out of the top 25 (though they still both won bowl games this year), and they aren’t even in the top 10 in recruiting. And those schools are located in FLORIDA, not INDIANA, and neither of them have ND’s standards of academics and behavior.

    The thing that has set Notre Dame back the most these past 15 years is the notion that they ought to have top 5 recruiting classes every year. Why when they are not a top 5 program right now? They are not even a top 15 program right now! Notre Dame needs to shift to a regional recruiting strategy that allows them to get good solid players on both sides of the ball. Maybe they don’t need to do that with skill players, your QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs because you have a famous NFL offensive coordinator as head coach (and even that luster is going to wear off soon, it will buy Weis a couple more years maybe), but they DEFINITELY need to do it on defense and perhaps even on the offensive line.

    None of the kids that Weis was recruiting remembers Notre Dame’s tradition as a top football program, and one can even wonder whether their parents even do, especially if their parents are under 40 (as lots of them are). Notre Dame has played in TWO national title games since 1980. If they are ever going to get back to a national title game, they are going to have to start recruiting like the program that they actually are right now.

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  4. Pat 11 years ago

    Charlie Weis may be trying to deflect the blame for this average recruiting class away from himself.
    There is no good excuse for Notre Dame missing out on so many top recruiting targets.
    Charlie Weis should come forward and accept the blame as the head coach.
    So far Charlie Weis has not proved to be the coaching legend that Notre Dame had hoped he would be.

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  5. Paul 11 years ago

    Of course there would be negatives to a system like this such as coaching changes affecting kids who have already signed LOI’s, but provisions could be made for such occasions where a signed recruit would have X number of days to cancel their LOI if they a position coach, coordinator, or entire staff was let go.

    I disagree, I don’t think this is a problem. A kid commits to a school, not a coach. Its rare that there is not enough writing on the wall before a coaching change. If a coach is on the hot seat, the kid will know it and can decide accordingly. To allow kids who sign LOIs to back out would not be fair for the freshman, soph’s ect who commited to the same coach. Its Notre Dame, not the coach.

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  6. Shawn 11 years ago

    I think keeping one LOI day in February is fine. After all, we need to remember two things. First, these are kids 18, if not 17, years old and finding themselves having to make one of the biggest decisions of their life. I certainly don’t mind giving them time to think and consider their options.

    However,I believe what needs to be done is to make a ‘verbal’ a formal part of the process. When a kid gives a verbal, he is saying “I’m plannig on signing with XXXXX team – until LOI Day, I’m theirs”. When a kid gives a verbal, other universities that are interested in the recruit should have to notify the recruit’s intended school of the desire to contact said recruit – not necessarily ask permission to talk with them, but at least notify them that they wish to contact him. This gives the reruit’s intended school the chance to talk with the recruit before any other school has their say. Further, prolonging the “quiet period” before LOI Day may help all parties, where other schools cannot contact ‘verbal’ recruits 3 Weeks before LOI Day.

    Just my thoughts.

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  7. Jeff Kantor 11 years ago

    You have some good ideas in your article about recruiting. The way it is now always got under my skin because when the kids make a verbal coaches from other schools keep hounding them filling their heads with lies or whatever to change their minds. My thinking on this subject when a recruit “Commits” it is like signing a contract, break that contract there should be some kind of penalty such as the recruit cannot sign until the next year. This way no other school can keep filling the kid’s head with lies, etc.
    I know of one case in particular that happened a few years ago to Penn State, Dan Kendra, who was my neighbor in Allentown PA, committed to State and at the last minute switched to Florida State leaving Penn State in a hole because they thought they had their Q-back and didn’t bother recruiting another.
    I’ve seen this happen to Notre Dame more often than not. I think Michael Vic, Booker to Florida State on national TV when we thought it was a shoo-in. I’m sure there are a lot more all throughout the nation.
    I am happy with the guys Notre Dame got but with the three that got away it sure would a banner year.

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