Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - In an otherwise slow college football offseason, National Signing Day has become mini-spectacle for FBS fans to enjoy in anticipation of the upcoming season.
On the first Wednesday of February, highly recruited student-athletes get to decide which program they're committing to, sometimes during a live press conference on national television.
It's a one-day event unique to college football, but not all coaches see eye- to-eye on the state of the current signing period.
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, who's entering his seventh season with the Cornhuskers and has complied an impressive 58-24 record, spoke out earlier this month against getting rid of National Signing Day altogether.
"If somebody has offered a kid, let him sign. It's over," Pelini said. "That will stop some of the things that are happening -- people just throwing out offers, some of them with really no intention of taking a kid."
As the system currently stands, there's really no start or end to recruiting season, and some are fighting to shorten the process with an earlier signing day. At the annual SEC spring meetings last month, the coaches voted unanimously in favor of the signing period beginning the Monday after Thanksgiving. Pushing the date up would help eliminate some of the dog-and- pony show in which programs try to lure players away from their verbal commitment and players begin to overplay their hand by pinning suitors against one another.
Under Pelini's proposed idea, the process would be slowed down even further, allowing for a much more cut-and-dry approach to recruiting.
"Make (the offer) mean something," Pelini continued. "People will be like, 'Whoa, I've got to take this kid now.' It will slow things down for the kids, for the institutions. There will be less mistakes. Why does there have to be one specific day? It will get rid of some of the stuff that goes on, kids pulling the hats and so forth."
Upon making these remarks, Pelini was just one man with a farfetched idea, but in the days since, he has gained support from some of his contemporaries.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez recently put himself in Pelini's corner after the subject was broached during a radio interview on Sirius XM's College Sports Network.
"I'm thinking, boy, that's really way out there, and then after I started thinking about it, I thought, 'You know what? That makes a whole lot more sense than anything I've heard of," Rodriguez said. "It's whenever he gets offered and whenever he chooses to sign. If you think about it, it probably makes a whole lot more sense than anything else we're doing."
With Pelini's idea picking up momentum, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson hopped on the bandwagon as well.
"Personally, with what Bo Pelini came out with, that's what I've been talking about for years," Johnson said. "That's the way I would do it. You don't even have a signing date. Once they commit, you give them a scholarship and they sign. You get 25 signees per year, and 85 spots overall. I think they have to be in their senior year of high school, or maybe (having completed) their junior year.
"It would cut all the (nonsense) out of it," Johnson continued. "All those people who think they have offers would find out that they really don't have offers. You know, if somebody walked in your school and said, 'You have an offer,' the kid could say, 'OK, where is it? I'm ready to sign it.' This would stop all this foolishness."
Under the current system, a player can only commit verbally prior to signing day - a non-binding agreement that can be rescinded. Most players who verbally commit stay true to their word, but the many highly recruited stars will keep their intentions close to the vest until the dramatic reveal on signing day.
With only a finite number of scholarships, the waiting game is a difficult one for many programs to play and they await an athlete's decision. Five-star recruits from this past signing day were deciding from anywhere between two and five schools. While the reveal is great news for one lucky team, the others are left with their hat in their hand and an unused scholarship that could have went to another player.
Eliminating signing day would help programs have a much clearer sense of what their team will look like following the recruiting season. It would allow teams' offers to players to mean a lot more, for programs to put their money where there mouth is, so to speak. There would be no such thing as an empty offer just to keep up with the mental chess match.
On the other hand, this doesn't solve every problem. In theory, allowing an athlete to sign right away helps lessen stress on both ends, but it's still going to be very difficult to bring aboard top-notch talent. The best of the best are still going to prolong their signing date while weighing their best options. A rule change may lessen the spectacle aspect of signing day, but the end results will ultimately be much of the same.
There's something to be said about who has chosen to speak up on this matter. Pelini has failed to land many elite recruits over the past few seasons, and Nebraska ranked a modest 32nd in Rivals.com's 2014 recruiting class rankings. Arizona (28th) and Georgia Tech (47th) also failed to make a big splash, and the three programs landed zero five-star recruits between them.
Meanwhile, the SEC continues to benefit from National Signing Day as the conference finished with seven of the top nine recruiting classes and 10 of the top 20. Maybe Pelini, Rodriguez and Johnson are in favor of change because the current model hasn't suited them so well.
In the end, abolishing National Signing Day won't accomplish much. Sure, it will get rid of the press conferences and "the decisions" and some other non- football related shenanigans, but the top programs will continue to clean up while the rest of the nation schemes up more pitches to try to even the playing field.