Eliminate signing day entirely (cont.)
With this system, school administrators likely would force coaches to think carefully about who gets an early offer. From the NCAA's perspective, any athlete with the GPA and standardized test score to pass through the NCAA Clearinghouse can accept a scholarship. Most schools, however, do not relish the thought of admitting students who only meet the NCAA's appallingly low minimum standards. More than likely, admissions offices would slam the brakes on coaches by forcing them to wait until a player demonstrates his academic proficiency -- which probably wouldn't happen until his senior year -- before offering a scholarship.
Prospects also would have to change their collective mindset. They would have to think long and hard before accepting an offer. They would have to do their own homework to make certain they've chosen the correct school for them. But today's high schoolers aren't dumb. They know how to find information, and if they are properly educated to understand the consequences of their decision, most will choose wisely.
At least in its early stages, the system would get deluged with criticism by those who think 16- and 17-year-olds shouldn't be forced to keep their promises. Still, the rules for obtaining a release from a Letter of Intent shouldn't change. Only legitimate family emergencies should sway the appeals committee. Besides, if a player truly wants to get out of his letter without incurring an eligibility penalty, he can always go to prep school.
Coaches, meanwhile, will have no way to yank a scholarship from under a prospect's nose. If they made the offer, they must honor it. The only thing that could keep a signed player from campus is the NCAA Clearinghouse. That means college coaches might spend several Saturdays a year with fingers crossed, praying their recruiting mistakes bomb on the SAT or ACT.
Some coaches would get fired. Others would learn to recruit more judiciously. Prospects, meanwhile, would get a small measure of protection from the whims of millionaire coaches.
Speaking of early commitments, 45 of Rivals.com's top 100 class of 2009 football recruits have announced a college choice. Though those destinations could change by Signing Day, the list provides a glimpse at which schools may top the recruiting rankings in February. Not surprisingly, most of these schools should do pretty well in the rankings of on-field performance as well.
Ohio State leads the way with seven commitments from the top 100, while USC is second with five. Most of the other committed players intend to play for marquee schools programs as Georgia, LSU or Texas. Notable are two schools that hope to recruit their way back to prominence. Alabama, which in Nick Saban's first full recruiting year hauled in the best class in the nation, has commitments from Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia High back Trent Richardson (No. 28) and Foley (Ala.) High defensive tackle D.J. Fluker (No. 42). Florida State, which began recruiting more aggressively after a staff overhaul in 2007, has commitments from Greenville (Fla.) Madison County High defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel (No. 8) and from Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby High linebacker Willie Downs (No. 46).
More Elite 11
Two more quarterbacks have accepted invitations to the prestigious Elite 11 camp, bringing the total to four. One new addition is Springfield (Pa.) Cardinal O'Hara quarterback Tom Savage, a Rutgers commitment who clearly outperformed SI.com's Kevin Armstrong at one recent camp. The other is Watkinsville (Ga.) Oconee County High quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Like fellow Elite 11 invitee Aaron Murray of Tampa (Fla.) Plant, Mettenberger is committed to Georgia.