College football's early signing period is getting even earlier, but problems persist

College football's early signing period is getting even earlier, but it doesn't help the bigger issue.

The college football recruiting calendar is changing.
The college football recruiting calendar is changing. / Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY
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College football has a recruiting calendar problem.

Not only has recruiting become an everyday part of the sport, but with NIL and the transfer portal, there is a whole new type of recruiting that comes into play during the offseason.

With the recruiting calendar including an early signing period in December, that means that teams would be coming down the home stretch for high school recruiting while also trying their best to compete in the fast-paced transfer portal market. In the past few years, the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas was the busiest of the year.

According to a report from The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach, that could be changing a bit.

Instead of a late December Signing Day, the early signing period is set to move to right after the regular season. The Wednesday through Friday before conference championship games will become the time in which most high school prospects sign their national letters of intent.

Auerbach also reiterated a previous report that the NCAA is considering adding a third signing period (the early period in December and the traditional period in February being the other two). The discussions around this third signing period have been tabled for now but are not out of the picture, according to Auerbach. The NCAA could implement the third signing period as soon as 2025.

Pushing the early signing period up doesn't do much to alleviate the busyness of the recruiting calendar after the regular season. It does, though, move the primary high school signing period ahead of the official opening of the transfer portal, something that is a step in the right direction.

Teams that want to make coaching changes could be in for disastrous Decembers. Programs that make an early move may face last-minute "commitment casualties," and programs that wait until after the new early signing period could face a large number of players asking to be released from their signed letters of intent.

Teams in the newly expanded College Football Playoff also will be in the same difficult position they were in previously. With the old format, the CFP began around the New Year, so the early signing period was around 10 days prior to the start of the Playoff. Now, with the expanded playoff, games are set to start in the middle of December, and that is also about 10 days past the early signing period.

Frankly, until legislation is ratified for the third signing period (one before the season) and/or the transfer portal window is shifted until after the season, coaches are not going to be happy with the recruiting calendar.

It will be interesting to monitor what the NCAA will do moving forward. Maybe the organization can salvage things, but it is also possible that the NCAA's botching of almost everything over the last decade has created so many big issues around collegiate athletics that the power conferences will decide to defect and become their own college football entity.

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