James Jones column: Let’s make National Signing Day special again

Published 5:19 am Thursday, January 4, 2024

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Many people have called me an old-school traditionalist. In many ways, they are correct.

Especially when it comes to National Signing Day (NSD) for college football in February.

The first Wednesday in February was always reserved for college football athletes to sign National Letters of Intent (NLI) with schools of their choice. While the first Wednesday in Feb.is still in effect, the NCAA changed it four years ago.

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We’re now reduced to a three-day NCAA Early Signing Period, held usually between Dec. 20-22.

I am against the early signing period for several reasons.

do not like the timing. Athletes are out of school on Christmas break and some of them play basketball. We’ve got holiday tournaments played between Dec. 18 and Jan. 5.

In addition, I prefer NSD in Feb. because it feels more special for a football junkie like myself. Athletes who made official campus visits in January always provided more intrigue with their college choices.

A later date provides more mystery. I often handled recruiting for my previous employer for 20 years until becoming sports editor. I always enjoyed making in-state recruiting rankings in January, which college football fans always loved to read. Oftentimes, I got calls on where a certain athlete is going to sign.

We already know that Alabama head football coach Nick Saban is not affected by recruiting changes. Saban gets a top two signing class all the time, a reason he is considered the best coach ever.

NSD was once regarded as an “unofficial” holiday for college football fans. Some fans usually took the day off to see how their schools stacked up in the recruiting battle.

I got a dose of the early signing period in 2019 when Selma High offensive guard Jeremiah Wright signed with Auburn. Selma City Schools put on an excellent program for the signing of Wright.

I expect another outstanding presentation in December at Southside High School for the signing of Panthers’ Prep All-American wide receiver Derick Smith. I am looking forward to the day when Smith signs because a school will be getting a special player. For me, I just want the NCAA to make NSD one day again and in February.