Alabama football coach Nick Saban is concerned high school seniors might skip their final prep seasons to avoid injuries once they’ve signed with a college team.
Just last week Saban was asked by CBS Sports for comment on the way Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey’s bowed out of last year’s bowl games, presumably to avoid injury before entering the NFL draft. Saban said he’s worried about more of the same from high school players if the NCAA were to move up its signing day.
"Same thing will happen in high school if they make the signing day before the season," Saban said. "It will take a few years, then some kid will say, 'Hey, I'm going to Notre Dame. I'm not playing my senior year.'”
Saban may not be completely off base in his concerns.
This year’s recently approved early signing day will be held Dec. 20, 2017, for the 2018 recruiting class, which means players still need that final high school season to prove themselves. The existing date in early February will remain.
The NCAA said that the new earlier signing date would allow those recruits who have their minds made up to commit earlier and thus not be hassled by recruiters as they’re completing their senior year.
University of Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said he thought the new date was a good thing for players and teams. "If you can sign them and that part would be done, it would be good,” Chryst told SBNation.com. “No one’s fighting the early signing in the discussions I’ve been a part of."
SBNation pointed out that the earlier signings could have some drawbacks for players. Most coaching changes happen in December and January after some prospects will have signed early.
Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, said he’s not a fan of having any specified signing day.
“I'm not sure that a signing date is exactly what we need in today's environment,” Bowlsby said during a recent press conference, which was reported by SBNation. “I have asked coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners repeatedly over the last 12 months why we have a signing date. It seems to me that, if we have 70 percent of the student-athletes, the prospects that want to commit relatively early, that one date is not all that important. The only answer I've ever gotten is ‘because we've always had a signing date.’”
Bowlsby said he thinks players should be allowed to sign as early as spring. “I think you could end up with a signing window, where you would say, ‘OK, we're going to do visits in April, May and June, we're gonna go to camp,’” Bowlsby said.
Check out Saban's comments on early signing dates from October of last year: