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In the debate involving an early college football signing date, Purdue coach Darrell Hazell has taken a stand:
“That's probably more suitable for me,” he said. “Some people would argue that it's better to sign in August. That might be too early, in my opinion.”
The current signing period is in early February. With more and more high school players committing before their senior seasons, and with the ever-increasing number of decomits, coaches have started pushing for change.
Purdue has six commitments with this week's addition of Columbus East tailback Markell Jones. The others are Texas defensive back Andy Chalf, New Jersey athlete Robert Ennis, Indianapolis offensive lineman Matt McCann, Kentucky quarterback Elijah Sindelar and Mishawaka long snapper Ben Makowski.
The NCAA surveyed coaches about an early signing period (the current February signing date would remain), with the two most likely options in December or August. No consensus was reached. The ACC recommended an Aug. 1 date. SEC coaches were against a change, but if it had to happen, they preferred the Monday after Thanksgiving.
An August signing date also would likely mean allowing earlier official visits. Under current rules, recruits can't take official visits until Sept. 1 of their senior years.
Hazell's December preference comes from favoring fall official visits so recruits can see the full Purdue game experience.
“There is much going on in August with preseason camp and getting ready for the season,” Hazell said. “Now, there's also a lot going on in December, but with December, you still allow kids to visit the campus, see a game on our dime, throughout the season. You'll have multiple guys coming from out of state and they're able to evaluate you during the season. That's probably more suitable for me.”
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini told ESPN.com he'd just as soon get rid of the national signing day. He suggested that high school players should be able to sign the instant they get a scholarship offer. He said this would slow down the machine-gun approach some coaches use in offering kids they don't really want. It also might prevent coaches from offering high school freshmen and sophomores, or even younger, because it would be too risky given no one knows how much such young players will physically and mentally develop.
Hazell wasn't sure about that, but does think a change should be explored.
“There are guys right now who are 2015 guys who know where they want to go, and it's not going to change between now and February. For those guys, a December period will allow them to not worry about a coach coming to their school every week and spending that money to visit them. You have to visit them every week to make sure they don't leave. There is some merit to having a December signing period.”
Football recruiting change should involve more than just the August-December debate, said Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke, who is at the forefront of NCAA issues as a member of the NCAA Leadership Council and the president of the 1A Athletic Directors' Association.
“I had the opportunity to lead to the committee on the basketball recruiting model,” Burke said. “We need to do something similar with football, but you can't just say an early signing date. You have to look at the whole system.
“You want to get the kids on campus so they can see it and not make a decision based on some star rating system or some marketing pitch a school makes. You start with the whole process.
“Are we going to finally realize that technology has changed in the 21st Century? The rules say you can't communicate, yet we facebook and tweet all the time. Follow me (on Twitter or Facebook) and I'll talk to you.
“We need to address the whole system, not just lock into one element, or you'll make a mistake.”