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Mid-December date viewed as compromise

By Mike Baldwin Published: July 6, 2008
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If college football copied basketball, a high school football recruit could have two options — sign in August before his senior season or wait and sign in February.

Many high school coaches would endorse such a plan. But most Division I-A college football coaches are adamantly opposed to an August early signing day. That's why mid-December is viewed as a practical compromise.

"I prefer December since most of your negative recruiting occurs after Christmas,” said Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley. "If you did it in August you essentially eliminate vacations for assistants so I don't like that option.”

If an early signing date were implemented in August, the entire recruiting process would change.

Coaching staffs would spend February through May evaluating prospects.

Most recruits would take official visits in May, June and July when there are few students on campus and empty seats in stadiums.

"We have official visits throughout the season, including 10 or 15 in December,” said Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt. "I don't want to turn the summer into official visits. We wouldn't do as good a job recruiting.”

But with so many players committing early some believe August has benefits. What date do the coaches want?

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History of commitment letters

•Until the late 1960s, all athletes, in all sports, had one signing day (May 20).

•The only letters signed before the 1970s were conference letters. Athletes could sign with more than one school from different conferences.

• The National Letter of Intent was founded in 1964 but wasn't universally accepted until 1973.

•Football is the only sport that doesn't offer an early signing period. Starting in 1984, basketball and other sports were allowed to sign players in November their senior year of high school.

By Mike Baldwin

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