ROSEMONT, Ill. — It takes a village to get NCAA legislation to pass, so it was something of a milestone this spring when the NCAA’s Division I Council endorsed an early football signing period for high school seniors.
There were some dissenting voices, however. Perhaps none bigger than Gene Smith.
The Ohio State athletic director explained his opposition here Monday during the Big Ten Joint Group Meetings, citing the accelerated timeframe of seemingly everything in society and saying he doesn’t want to pressure high school kids any more than colleges already do.
“We really feel that young kids today are pressured into making a lot of decisions early, and we’re part of that,” Smith said. “I really watched our culture change so much, and I’ve seen it in basketball and now it’s reversing in basketball but I really like the timeframe for a young person to make their decision, to be firm in it. We’ve had kids, and we all use the term ‘flipping,’ in February and January, and so I’m a little old school on that, so I always felt that was the appropriate time — season’s over, you might be playing basketball, whatever, get your time to make your visits and go.
“But the data shows that there’s a lot of kids who made early decisions and they stayed true to those. That was my opinion on it but the larger majority rules the day and we move on.”
Smith likens the rules change to that of the Olympic sports, saying he has visitors in his office now who are too young to even have their drivers’ licenses.
[More college football from Yahoo Sports: Big Ten spring practice summaries]
The Buckeyes’ AD was clearly in the minority, with most coaches and administrators throughout this spring echoing comments like Josh Whitman’s. The Illinois AD reiterated his support of the change Monday, saying it never made sense for football to stand apart from other sports by not having an earlier signing period.
“Just as importantly for me, the early signing period comes with the early campus access,” Whitman said. “It allows us to provide them with official visit opportunities in spring of their junior year. It aligns more closely in the time frame in which they’re generally making their decisions anyway. It was a little bit ridiculous that a lot of these student athletes were making decisions about where they were going to school without us being able to provide them with an official visit to inform their decision. It realigns the timeline so we can be a more active participant in their decision making process.”
Whitman said there are arguments to be made about moving the early signing period ahead of a high school recruit’s senior year. (The early signing period will be Dec. 20-22.)
As with most legislation matters, Smith, like many of his peers, simply fears the unintended consequences.
“We’ve got kids making decisions too early, decisions for us and that piece really concerns me,” Smith said. “So I think you’ll end up seeing more transfers, and we’re gonna allow kids to transfer because we wanna give them that right just like other students. So I just think you’re gonna see some unintended consequences — just my opinion — I think you’re gonna be in a numbers game for — and this is small, I’m divving at the edges — there will be kids who develop during their seniors years, and you get into a numbers game, all of a sudden: ‘My God, Gene is really better than I thought his last four games. He got in a playoff and we don’t have a scholarship for him.’ So that kid is going somewhere else. But that’s OK, that’s the world.”
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