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STOVALL: Early signing period could signal the end of sportswriter's Christmas
Sunday Sound Off

For the sportswriter, Christmas comes twice a year. 

One Christmas occurrence is next week’s Dec. 25 date that we share with all of you. But the other comes about six weeks later, always falling on the first Wednesday in February. 

You probably know it as National Signing Day. 

For non-sports reporters, think of the adrenaline rush you get covering something like Election Night. That’s what Signing Day is for us sports scribes. But this year, with the roll-out of the new Early Signing Period that begins Dec. 20 and runs through Dec. 22, we’ll get the chance to see how this day affects our February Christmas. 

It used to be that National Signing Day treated us to the suspense of seeing if high-profile college football prospects would hold true to their pledges or pull a last-minute, dramatic flip to another school of choice — the kind of flip that would send us media types into a frenzy, trying to be the first to break the news. 

National Signing Day has traditionally been a day rife with potential surprises and even some head-scratching moves — like the year 2013 Arkansas running back commit Alex Collins spent a part of the day looking for his mom who ran off with his letter of intent because she didn’t want Collins to go to Arkansas. 

Georgia fans will remember the 2011 Signing Day when running back Isaiah Crowell, a Columbus native and the nation’s top running back prospect chose to signify his binding pledge to UGA by brandishing a real, live white baby English bulldog that could’ve passed for Uga’s own flesh and blood. 

Former top-ranked Georgia recruit, Isaiah Crowell (left) used one of the most memorable props in recent National Signing Day history to declare his commitment to UGA. - photo by Submitted Photo

That same year, an Ole Miss target, Floyd Raven had sent his signed letter of intent to the Rebels, much to their delight — or at least that’s what they thought. Come to find out, Raven’s mother forged her son’s signature because she wanted him to go to Ole Miss instead of Texas A&M. 

Such drama, plus the media following for National Signing Day that arguably rivals the NFL Draft for media attention, is a big reason why some want to nix the day altogether. Enter the purpose for the early signing period. 

It was implemented, some say, to ward off some of the confusion and foolery that sometimes comes with teenage kids making life-changing decisions under the bright lights of adult scrutiny. It’s also intended to put the kibosh on some of the cat-and-mouse games prospects, schools and coaches play with each other. 

Several high school coaches have sounded off, calling the early signing period a good thing because, in a way, it sort of forces the hand of a prospect to make decision that doesn’t drag on, at the expense of that prospect getting looked over for another. 

But another plus, some coaches say, is the idea that an early signing period can help sort out the pile of true Power Five prospects from mid-major to low-major to Division II (or otherwise) prospects. 

This would, in essence, help kids more quickly gauge exactly how coaches are prioritizing them so they can make informed decisions that will secure them a scholarship somewhere, instead of missing out on one while following a pipe dream. 

That part I like. If you read my Sunday Sound Off  from two weeks ago, you know I’m not a fan of the way these coaching carousels can affect football prospects and their futures. I’ll always advocate for a kid to choose for a school and not for a coach. The school will be there even when the coach goes up the road. 

That said, this could be where the early signing period hurts. Calendar dates for the early signing period also coincide with the time of season when college coaches are typically getting hired and fired. 

It’s not unlikely to think of a scenario where a kid could be all in for a school, commit and even sign early, then watch that school dump its coach, or the coach bolt for another job, and the kid is stuck in a situation that may not be exactly what he signed up for. 

Finally, if this thing catches on, it could effectively take our sportswriters’ Christmas away. There wouldn’t be a need for the pomp and circumstance of the first Wednesday in February when student-athletes are taking care of business two months ahead of time. 

Clemson pledge, Darnell Jefferies, right, stands with fellow Newton senior, Myron Middlebrooks. Jefferies will take advantage of this year's Early Signing Period to ink with Clemson and enroll as a freshman in January. - photo by Gabriel Stovall

But, since this is just the first early signing period, most of these theories are nothing more than conjecture. But it does touch us here in Newton County, as one of our own, Newton’s Darnell Jefferies will ink his NLI and send it off to Clemson in time to be received for the early signing period. 

Is this a sign of things to come? A changing of the college football recruiting landscape? Or will we still have much to talk about in the world of recruiting for may more Februaries to come? 

Only time will tell. 

Gabriel Stovall is the proud Sports Editor of The Covington News. He can be reached at for tips, feedback and suggestions. You can also follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1 and @CovNewsSports.