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River Parish coaches: Early signing date win-win for all involved

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  • Feature Story
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  • George Becnel
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  • April 21, 2017 - 9:18pm

File photoA proposal by the NCAA to allow for an early signing day for Division I football recruits in December is considered a win-win proposition by area coaches.

A proposal within the National Collegiate Athletic Association to allow Division I football recruits to sign an early National Letter of Intent is a win-win proposition for athletes and schools, most River Parish high school coaches agree.

The proposal, which would need approval by the Collegiate Commissioners Association to create the new NLI, would create an earlier signing period. Although no specific date has been established, all indications point to a December signing period. The association is expected to vote on the proposal in June.

“I think it’s good on both ends,” said Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio. “It kind of makes those kids that commit early, honor their commitment, which will eliminate some of the hard feelings that occur, not only the kid that de-commits, and the college, but also the high school coach that sort of get caught up in those de-commitments as well. Also, from a college coach’s standpoint, they will have a better idea of their recruiting class instead of having to chase, chase, chase throughout the entire recruiting period.”

“I think college coaches will really love it,” St. Charles Catholic coach Frank Monica said. “Kids are committing so early now, so why not let them sign early. That way, it takes the drama out of it and it saves that coach having to go back every week for two months to babysit a kid.”

“It gives a chance, if they (college recruits) are pretty solid on where they want to go, it gives them a chance to kind of lock things in and not have to worry about the stresses of what school they might attend. Waiting until February just kind of prolongs things,” said West St. John coach Brandon Walters.

An early signing date isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel of football recruiting. College conferences such as the SEC used to have an early signing date years ago.

“When I was (an assistant) at Tulane, that’s how it was because Tulane used to be under the SEC letter (of intent). It was convenient. When you sign a kid, you know what you have and you go on to someone else. They don’t have to sign that day, but if they do, you have a bird in the hand and you don’t have to babysit that kid and it prevents someone from stealing that kid later on when they don’t get their players.”

The early signing date can relieve pressure for both the big-time recruit who already has decided which program he plans to attend, while the college coaches might not have to hold their breath until February to see if a player holds true to his commitment.

The early signing period also could help players not of the blue-chip caliber get a second look by college programs.

“For me, it’s not for the bigger schools but it’s for everybody else. It kind of helps you to identify who your top recruits are early and it opens doors for other kids that may not have as many opportunities as many of those big-name guys do. I’m really excited about it,” said St. James coach Robert Valdez.

“I’ve always been an advocate of an early signing date,” said first-year Riverside Academy coach Chris Lachney. “I think an early signing period can kind of clear the road for a lot of those athletes in high school that might not be the Leonard Fornettes and Lowell Narcisses out there. It can kind of clear the water for a lot of those guys. I don’t think it’s the answer to all of the problems out there but I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

“Kids nowadays are going to the college of their choice early in January anyway, so I don’t believe it will be a big difference,” East St. John’s Alden Foster said. “It will be good for those that can sign early but it also will be good for some kids that have to wait on a scholarship on the February signing day. Some of those guys that go ahead and get it out of the way (by signing early) will open the door for some of those other kids that are waiting.”

As with any new proposal, there is the potential for unintended consequences. With a December signing date, for example, high school teams making deep playoff runs could run into distractions involved with top players signing early.

“The only red flag I would have is that it would put us right at the end of the playoffs and that will be a big distraction for a lot of people. I would love for there to be an early signing date in the summertime and get it out the way. I think that would benefit the colleges and the high schools,” said Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux.

“You are sitting there (as a college recruit) and you are in the week of a state semifinal football game or state championship football game, you can’t help but think, ‘Am I going to sign early?’ It is a distraction – and for a guy like me – who doesn’t like any distractions at all – that would be never racking. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s going to force kids to honor their commitment,” Saltaformaggio said.

Another proposal that also is likely to receive approval but has not garnered as much attention as the early signing date, is a change that would allow for recruits to take official visits beginning April 1 of their junior years instead of having to wait until September 1 of his senior season.

That proposal could help some recruits come to a quicker decision and ultimately lead to fewer distractions for all involved, according to Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins.

“I think in many cases, with them being able to go and take visits prior to the season starting - that can give kids even less of a distraction. One of the things that has happened with our kids the last two years at St. James and Lutcher playing until the state championship game, those kids miss out on those two December official visit weekends. If they get the chance to visit, they can’t visit the entire time because we played football on the Friday and they missed out on that experience. A lot of times our kids have to squeeze all their visits into three weeks in January. They don’t get the chance to take their five official visits,” Jenkins said.

George Becnel | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

George Becnel is an award-winning journalist and has been a sports writer and editor for more than 30 years.