Mike Ferrin, Rivals national recruiting director, threw out three ideas on Thursday to streamline the recruiting process. Overall, the ideas have merit, but one particular detail that Ferrin proposes would give schools in more populated regions a huge advantage over schools located elsewhere. An early signing day? Not a bad idea; if players and schools are ready to end the drama in the summer before a player's senior year, let them do so. The SEC's idea of doing it at Thanksgiving doesn't really do much to end the drama. Make all offers from schools written? Another good idea. Right now, some coaches throw out offers like candy at a Fourth of July parade. Anything that ends the farce of offering anybody and everybody to see what might stick is a good idea. Cutting official visits to three? That's something worth considering as well.
So what's the detail? Ferrin doesn't want to allow high school players to take official visits prior to the start of their senior year.
With the earlier Signing Day, prospects would not be able to take 'official' visits (paid for by the school), since those are not permitted until the prospect's senior year. However, so many prospects have the ability to take unofficial visits with the help of families, friends and coaches, there is no need to modify that rule. If a prospect is committed but wants to take official visits, he can skip the early Signing Day.
Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald touched on why this is such a bad idea for schools like Nebraska:
There is no other way around it: An early signing date without early official visits puts northern schools at a huge disadvantage. Huge.— Samuel McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) May 30, 2014
Schools located close to major population centers get a huge break. High school recruits can hop in the car (preferrably with Mom and Dad) and make daytrips to nearby schools anytime they want for an unofficial visit. Total cost is probably a tank or two of gas, and some fast food meals.
That's an advantage for schools like Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State, which are located near population centers. What about schools further away? Suddenly those daytrips become mini-vacations that take days, not hours. Gas costs increase, food costs increase, and now you add in hotel rooms. Or bite the bullet and fly, with airline tickets costing hundreds of dollars each.
That's why official visits are so important to schools like Nebraska. Nebraska has the resources to pay for these visits; it's just that under NCAA rules, it's more difficult to get players to visit Nebraska before many players commit. And now you are going to allow players to sign before a school like Nebraska can bring them on campus? That's not making the process more fair; it's actually unfair for schools like Nebraska.
An early signing day is a good idea. You know what's an even better idea? Allow students to take official visits during the summer before their senior ear. You know what's even better still? Allow Mom &/or Dad to come along and see where their son might spend the next four years of his life. As Ferrin's idea currently stands, Urban Meyer or Nick Saban could sign a player who's able to drive to Columbus or Tuscaloosa before Bo Pelini could ever fly that player to see Lincoln.
If we're going to move up the recruiting process, the whole recruiting process needs to move as well. That means early official visits are a prerequisite before you can have an early signing day.