CHICAGO — If Nebraska coach Bo Pelini had his way, National Signing Day would be a thing of the past. And the result would be an improved recruiting process.
“You’ve made a commitment to a young man to come play in your program, why do we have to wait to any certain day?” Pelini said. “Why don’t we just go ahead and let’s sign on the dotted line, let’s get it over with and move forward.”
That would be a big change from the system in place, where players have to wait until the signing period even if they’ve made an oral commitment. But what if they could sign as soon as they decide on a school?
“I think it would slow down some of the early offers,” Pelini said. “I think it would slow down some of the ridiculous things that go on on both ends, on the institution’s side of things and as far as the recruit’s.”
He used the word “integrity” and mentioning teaching athletes about honoring their commitment and “what it means to be a teammate.”
“There’s a bigger picture involved,” Pelini said. “And I think sometimes the way the recruiting process works is that contradictory to what we’re trying to teach these kids and how we’re trying to develop these kids in the long run to be successful, not only as football players and as athletes, but beyond, as husbands, as fathers, and their professions.”
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said the current system is “antiquated” and there needs to be more accountability. His solution? The Internet.
“If I’m offering a scholarship, I’ve got to go on a website and say I’m offering,” Fitzgerald said. “Bing, check the box. Everybody in the country has access to that website. All of a sudden the kid might get 50 of them, but everybody knows I’ve offered him a scholarship. There’s a 48-hour window, a cooling-off period, where he can decide, where we can’t pressure him to sign. That website kicks out an NLI (national letter of intent) and he can sign. After 48 hours, the offer is gone. There’s no more commitment.”
The Big Ten expanded its footprint in the East where there’s a large alumni base and big markets by adding Rutgers and Maryland. The way coach Kyle Flood sees it, Rutgers is expanding its footprint, too.
“It’s also opened up some access in the Midwest,” he said.
Rutgers, of course, will continue to focus on New Jersey and try to limit out-of-state schools from poaching players.
Offensive line coach Mitch Browning and receivers coach Ben McDaniels have connections in Ohio.
“I don’t expect us to be out in the Midwest full time,” Flood said. “But I think from year to year when there’s a necessity and a numbers issue; ... that’s what the Big Ten allows you to do.”
Maryland coach Randy Edsall understands that leaving the ACC after 61 years jolted fans. He thinks they’re coming around to it, though.
“It’s been embraced, and people understand why we did what we did, how it’s going to benefit us for now and into the future,” Edsall said. “I would say that the reaction now moving forward is people are very, very excited about what’s going to take place starting this fall.”
Maryland opens conference play at Indiana on Sept. 27 and gets a big test the next week when Ohio State visits. There are Big Ten home games against Iowa, Michigan State and Rutgers and trips to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan.