National Signing Day 2021


Student-athlete signaling “Horns Up” to make his commitment to the University of Texas at Austin (via Houston Chronicle)

Garrett Gess, Writer

On this day each year, hundreds of college football recruits across the country ink up their letter of intent (NLI) for their respective college. It’s on this day that athletes can cultivate all of their hard work from youth through high school and make the journey into a university that has a place for them. Although the normal National Signing Day is in February 2022, the Division I football early period starts on December 15. During the early period, recruits only have a three-day window to decide on singing their NLI, or they’ll have to wait for the regular period in February to make their decision. For many top recruits, the signing day is just a formality if they have already committed to a school and will stay committed. Others could flip their commitments and sign with a different college than expected. But a large number of athletes have yet to commit to a school and will make their announcements to sign their NLIs all at the same time. Currently, 6 five-star recruits are still uncommitted, and 67 ESPN 300 recruits have yet to announce their commitment.

After the final week in November that concludes the college football regular season, coaches go straight into recruiting as the NCAA contact period begins the following Sunday. Many college football programs value recruiting at the same level they value their game plan. In 2005, Nebraska was the only college football program that spent over $500,000 in recruiting expenses. Today, almost every major program has exceeded that mark with Georgia boasting an excess of $3.5 million in recruiting expenses. Coaches travel across the region to convince recruits on why they should come to their program. There are extremely strict rules in place by the NCAA that prevent unethical activities by coaches and are punishable by sanctions. The NCAA has clear outlines that coaches have to follow as far as official visits, communication, and benefits that they can provide to the student-athletes. Any evidence of coaches not following NCAA recruiting rules can bring negative impacts on the program  that last several years.

A player’s decision on what school he will play at depends on several factors such as academics, program talent, position depth, location to home, and coaching. Unlike most sports seasons that have a clear start and finish, the 2022 season is already underway before a champion of the 2021 season is crowned. Four coaches that had their team finish in the Top 25 have already accepted new jobs before the bowl games have been played (Brian Kelly: Notre Dame to LSU, Mario Cristobal: Oregon to Miami, Lincoln Riley: Oklahoma to USC, and Billy Napier: Louisiana to Florida). In an ideal world, those coaches would finish out the 2021 season and coach in their respective bowl game, but their focus is clearly on the next season. Coaches’ coming and going open a whole new series of current players entering the transfer portal and high schoolers changing their commitment. And with name, image, and likeness legislation already passed in many states, athlete recruiting decisions have become much more intriguing.

Here are the four recruiting periods as defined by the NCAA:

Contact Period: When it is permissible for authorized athletics department staff members to make in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.

Evaluation Period: When it is permissible for authorized athletics department staff members to be involved in off-campus activities designed to assess the academic qualifications and playing ability of prospective student-athletes. No in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts shall be made with the prospective student-athlete during an evaluation period.

Dead Period: When it is not permissible to make in-person recruiting contacts or evaluations on or off the member institution’s campus or to permit official or unofficial visits by prospective student-athletes to the institution’s campus.

Quiet Period: When it is permissible to make in-person recruiting contacts only on the member institution’s campus. No in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts or evaluations may be made during the quiet period.