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Big Ten could benifit from proposed football early signing period

College football coaches have cried out for an early signing period for a long time, and it appears that they may finally be getting their wish. It just so happens that the Big Ten may be the biggest beneficiary of this potential move, and that couldn’t come at a better time for the conference.

ESPN.com got Big Ten associate commissioner Chad Hawley to confirm an earlier report by CBSSports that the committee tasked with studying a potential early signing period was about to recommend just that.

According to the CBSSports report, the sport’s new initial signing period would be in place this year for the 2016 recruiting class. The new early date would begin Dec. 16 and last 72 hours. It would be in place for two years as an “experiment,” before being reevaluated.

It’s the recommendation of the committee set up by the College Commissioners Association (aka the folks who oversee the national letter of intent) and will be up for a vote by the entire organization at its June meeting in Asheville, N.C.

For some in the recruiting world it was welcome news, but for football coaches the country over it is likely joyous news. No longer do they have to split time between bowl prep and recruiting, no longer do they have to go crazy over the holiday period and no longer are there emergency cross-country trips in January to shore up long-standing commits.

However, the Big Ten makes out like bandits in this scenario because of one simple fact — population. With the declining population in the Midwest the league has had to shift its recruiting base in to the backyard of it’s chief rival, the SEC.

The same league that has risen to the highest of highs in college football history and led it to a huge advantage on the recruiting trail. One of the biggest advantages comes from the ability to slow-play recruits in its own backyard, leaving some prospects that want offers to twist in the wind for them until late in the current process.

More than anything, this proposal prevents SEC schools or schools in the southeast in general from slow-playing recruits. If those schools truly want a player, a serious offer has to come earlier and that’s a benefit for everyone involved in the process.

Too many times we see a recruit stick with a commitment to a northern school, particularly a Big Ten school, only because an offer to their home state school wasn’t coming. Then come January the Florida’s, Alabama’s and Florida State’s of the world come in and pick and chose the rising prospects to offer within the southeast.

POOF, there goes said rising 3-star prospect in the final weeks, days or even hours leading up to national signing day. All it does is leave programs to scramble to fill numbers and set off a curious set of dominos that is completely unnecessary.

Fans of just about every Big Ten school not named Michigan or Ohio State are very familiar with the exact process we’re talking about.

Last recruiting season was a great example of the SEC school waiting to swoop in at the last second, especially with Wisconsin. The Badgers had to fend off a sudden late charge from the University of Florida for two rising 3-star prospects in wide receiver Krenwick Sanders and defensive tackle Jeremy Patterson from the same high school in the state of Georgia.

The thought process was abundantly clear and it currently exists for many of the top SEC schools. You know, the “We’re the SEC and who wouldn’t want to play for us” attitude.

After losing out on 5 and 4-star prospects, schools like Florida suddenly slide in at the last second for those high 3-star prospects that slid under the SEC radar but didn’t for Big Ten schools, expecting to land them with ease too.

With an earlier signing period those famous mid-January offers will now have to happen earlier and it will put a bigger emphasis on talent evaluation and less on hoping to land the biggest fishes possible based on star ratings or just throwing out offers to see what sticks.

The Big Ten does a great job of locating, assessing and offering under-the-radar prospects earlier than their SEC and some ACC schools down in the Southeast. With an earlier signing period likely to come to fruition, that means schools who value evaluation over stars and battling for the big guys will have an advantage.

Instead of kids being committed for years and double-digit months and suddenly subject to big offers in the final weeks, they’ll either get those offers in the course of the natural recruiting period or not get them at all.

Basically, this new signing date will force the SEC’s hand — either offer them early or lose out on the players you really wanted all along.

Not only does the early signing period benefit the Big Ten because of the work they do in finding the hidden gems, but it also happens to come on the heels of a lot of good will generated from bowl season.

Make no mistake about it, Ohio State winning a national championship will help everyone else in the conference. So did Michigan State and Wisconsin winning New Year’s Day bowl games.

Now the conference can turn that capital in to potential results faster than any conference could’ve used good will in the past.

It’s also a major benefit to the kids who are seriously committed to a school and are sick of the recruiting process on the whole. Most kids don’t enjoy the recruiting process and the constant texts, DMs, IMs, tweets, letters and all that comes with the process. Allowing them to end the process earlier will ease the burden and scrutiny these kids face.

Some kids do enjoy the process though, and for those kids the process could still take the full time frame. Additionally, for those kids who want to wait out a coaching hire there is the original signing day as well.

While likely no perfect, this proposed idea should benefit everyone involved in this process and that’s a good first step forward.

But, in terms of benefits there isn’t a conference who will benefit more from the decreased recruiting cycle than the Big Ten.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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