SEC coaches vote on early signing period

semerson@macon.comMay 28, 2014 

Mark Richt meets reporters at SEC meetings in Destin.

SEMERSON@MACON.COM

DESTIN, Fla. - SEC football coaches still don't sound convinced that an early signing period is necessary. But they increasingly see one as probable, and in that case they have an opinion on when it should be.

The conference's 14 head coaches voted unanimously on Wednesday that any early signing period should be the Monday after Thanksgiving. Georgia's Mark Richt, who said he helped guide the discussion, said no vote was taken on whether to actually favor one.

"Most of us were thinking that there was probably going to be one," Richt said after emerging from the meeting.

The coaches also added a stipulation to their proposal: If any recruit takes an official visit prior to the early signing day, they forfeit the right to sign that day, and must wait until the traditional signing day, the first Wednesday of February.

The idea behind that is to make sure that the early signing date is for recruits for whom there is no doubt of where they want to go, and to keep recruiting during the season to a minimum.

"We want to coach our players in season," Richt said.

And the opposition to a signing period in August is mainly out of a desire to prevent coaches from spending summer on the road recruiting.

"Some of us would like to have a little sanity in our lives," Richt said.

The coaches were told by SEC officials that it would be discussed at the national level over the next few months, but that if it was adopted it would not take effect this season.

The SEC has twice before voted against an early signing period at the national level. This time around there is more support within the league, but the coaches' vote is not final. The athletics directors and presidents will vote later in the week, and then it gets decided at the NCAA level.

And even after Wednesday's vote, the SEC coaches appeared to only be grudgingly going along.

"I’d rather just keep it like we are but if we did have an early one, that would be OK," South Carolina's Steve Spurrier said.

"We've been talking about this for years," Richt said. "Not everybody agrees there oughta be an early signing period. I think when this first started years ago not many of us were very interested in this. We liked the recruiting calendar the way it is. We think it works fine. We don't think it's a problem.

"But if in fact there is going to be an early signing period, if it's inevitable that there will be one, we were unanimous in this (proposal)."

There appeared to be less enthusiasm among SEC athletics directors for the early signing period. Perhaps they are giving their coaches some cover. Or perhaps they're concerned that the SEC can't be left behind a national push for one to happen.

“I think where we were in the discussion level today is if there is a national trend to change we need to weigh in," South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner said. "We’re comfortable where we are, if other conferences, other people want to change it, we need to weigh in and tell them what we feel, and if there is going to be a change, the date we would be most comfortable with.”

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