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Why Urban Meyer doesn’t want an early signing period for college football

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by September 30, 2016 Sport News

Danny Clark committed to play football at Ohio State in December 2013, when he was a high school freshman from Akron. He was the Buckeyes’ quarterback of the distant future, a kid so committed to the dream of playing in the Horseshoe that he later got an Ohio State logo tattooed on his arm.

“I truly felt I was born to play for the Buckeyes,” Clark said in a statement on Tuesday. [restrict]

That statement, however, announced that he wouldn’t be playing for the Buckeyes. After being committed to the program for nearly four years, the quarterback was backing out of his pledge, although with a heavy heart. It was a tough realization that needed to happen.

Maybe it was Ohio State recruiting higher-touted quarterback prospects over him. Maybe it was the awareness that as a pro-style quarterback, a different offense was a better fit for his skills. Maybe it was just maturity, the recognition that boyhood dreams don’t always make the best adult realities.

Whatever it was, the player, and presumably the program, both felt a split was a good idea.

“My story is not over,” Clark wrote. “It is just beginning.”

Indeed.

This is known as a decommitment in college football recruiting, and to some in the sport it is considered a bad thing, a sign of instability or discontent. It shouldn’t be. This is just part of the process. If things aren’t right then both Clark and Ohio State are better off going in different directions now, not after an unsatisfactory year or three on campus. It’s better if everyone is honest going in.

It’s no harm, no foul … other than, perhaps, the tattoo.

Yet there remains a movement from a large swath of college football coaches and administrators to create a so-called “early signing period” when kids such as Clark could ink a binding agreement to Ohio State during the summer before their senior year. Coaches hail it as a way to calm the recruiting process rather than have to stay on top of prospects straight through the current signing day in February.

It also would have bound Clark and Ohio State (sort of) to each other. Officially, the letter of intent is a one-sided document that says Clark can’t receive a scholarship anywhere else but doesn’t force the school to even admit him as a student. Most of them, however, are honored.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer expressed on Monday his longstanding opposition to the early signing period during his weekly news conference. It likely wasn’t about Clark’s pending decommitment. This, for Meyer, is about logic, fairness and principle. He’s been saying the same thing for years.

And while the current system undoubtedly favors a place such as Ohio State, which can still swoop in late and flip prospects, it isn’t just a self-serving position. Meyer is right here. The early signing period is not something the NCAA should pursue. If anything, it should be getting rid of it in basketball and other sports that employ it. [/restrict]

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