TUSCALOOSA — The NCAA’s Division I Council announced a proposal Wednesday to adopt a new recruiting model in college football, and Nick Saban is a little conflicted about it.
Whether it was last summer’s debate about satellite camps or the long-discussed issue of an early signing date, the current recruiting model has been a continual topic of discord among coaches throughout the Power Five conferences.
On Wednesday, the D-I Council recommended a proposal that would attempt to fix college football recruiting in four major areas:
• Camps and clinics
• A revised calendar that would include two early signing dates for high school players
• An additional on-field assistant coach
• Better regulation of individuals who deal with recruits.
The proposal, if passed when the council casts final votes in April, would be considered as part of the 2016-17 cycle and be effective immediately, while the new recruiting calendar would go into effect for the 2017-18 signing year.
Saban was highly in favor of the addition of a 10th on-field assistant coach, compared to the current nine assistant coaches that are allowed.
“I think that one of the big things is, for the number of players that we have involved, if you do the player-coach ratio in any sport, football is the least,” Saban said Wednesday. “We have the most players, but ratio-wise we have the least number of coaches. I think it’s always difficult with nine (assistants) to break up your staff in a way.”
Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner and chairman of the NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee, said it was unanimous among the 12 committee members that a 10th assistant football coach was necessary, especially in light of the 100-plus players most Power Five teams maintain — including the 85 student-athletes on scholarship.
Saban’s biggest point was how the additional coach would allow programs to employ an assistant coach who strictly deals with special teams, similar to offensive and defensive coordinators.
But there were other parts of the proposal Saban wasn’t nearly as in favor of, specifically the addition of two 72-hour early signing periods. The first would take place the last Wednesday in June — prior to a recruit’s senior season — and the second in mid-December to coincide with the day junior college players are able to sign a National Letter of Intent.
“I am absolutely, positively against any kind of early signing date, especially a June signing date before a guy plays his senior year," Saban said. "If we want to have an early signing date after the season, then I would be more for that.”
If adopted, the council would effectively be requesting that the Division I Collegiate Commissioners Association also agree with the new signing dates. As the current model stands, high school prospects who don’t graduate early can sign NLIs starting on the first Wednesday in February, widely known as National Signing Day.
“The working group did a deep dive on recruiting from beginning to end, and I think what we came up with as a proposal is both student-athlete-friendly and coach- and staff-friendly,” Bowlsby said in the release. “We hit a sweet spot.”
Saban took issue with that, raising the prospect of potential misevaluations and how the early dates could be problematic for “late bloomers.”
“(Now) we’ve moved the recruiting calendar forward, which creates lots of issues and problems when it comes to not only (making) evaluations of a guy as a player, but more importantly, an evaluation of his character — what kind of person he is?” Saban said. “What’s his academic status? Does he have his academic requirements up to his junior year? What’s his test scores?
The council’s proposal also addressed satellite camps, a topic that burned up the airwaves the last two summers, recommending a limit of no more than 10 days for participating in camps and clinics while at the same time requiring the camps be operated by NCAA member schools and conducted on the school’s campus or in facilities it primarily uses for practice or competition.