Ever since the NCAA decided to allow an early signing period for football (which began with the Class of 2018) most observers would agree that this initiative has been a success on several levels.
However, a big issue facing this early signing period remains: what happens if a recruit signs an early letter of intent and suddenly finds out that the coaching staff at that same school changes?
This past weekend, NIU saw head coach Rod Carey leave DeKalb for a long-term contract with Temple. Carey leaves after six seasons at the helm of the Huskies program. He tallied a 52-30 record, two Mid-American Conference titles, four MAC West titles and six bowl game appearances.
Carey also leaves NIU after the Huskies inked 16 recruits in December for its Class of 2019 recruiting class. So in theory, they wrapped up their ’19 recruiting class efforts in December. I expect more than a few current NIU assistant coaches to also depart DeKalb for Temple soon. But what about the kids who are already signed to NIU? The short answer: tough luck, kid.
Once a recruit is signed to a Letter of Intent, the only way that LOI is broken is if the school decides to allow the recruit a release. Those same recruits can decide to transfer to another school, but would be required to sit out a year, per NCAA transfer rules. Some talk of a potential wavier that would allow recruits to transfer after a head coaching change has been discussed. However, nothing has yet to develop and nothing seems to be on the short-term horizon.
Schools like NIU that are able to sign a large majority of their recruits early in December undoubtedly benefit. Whoever is eventually named the new head coach at NIU will already have his 2019 recruiting class on board. The new NIU head coach can take his time in lining up a staff and not need to scramble to just fill up some recruiting needs.
But are the recruits really left holding the short straw?
"I talked to several of the kids who have been impacted by coaching changes at both the (recently held) All-American Bowl and the Under Armour game," said Rivals.com's National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell. "Not one kid said they would have signed anywhere else even after seeing those coaches move on to other schools."
One area that the early signing period has had a major impact is kids drawing more and more pressure from college coaches to sign early.
"Most coaches said that if I didn't sign early that they would pull the scholarship offer," said one recent Class of 2019 commitment. "I would have loved to have made a few more visits, but after I gave them my verbal (commitment) if I even mentioned getting offers from other schools they told me that they would pull the offer.
"It wasn't worth the risk of losing that opportunity so I signed early."
While the early signing period has been effective for the schools, the jury is still very much out for the recruits and the families.