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Early CFB signing period officially will happen for 2018 recruiting class

College football is about to change in a major way, as the long-standing tradition of national signing day gets a cousin.

On Monday, the Collegiate Commissioners Association approved what the coaches already approved — an early signing period for college football. The CCA runs the national letter of intent program, which ties student-athletes to college athletic programs.

Players wishing to end their recruiting process and sign with the school of their choice will be able to do so from Dec. 20 to 22 this year. That means the changes will occur for the 2018 signing class.

Coaches have been varied across the Big Ten on the impact of this new wrinkle in the recruiting process. Some have been all about this, others against it completely and even a few coaches who would like to see the early signing period even earlier in the process.

Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz is one in the camp of the latter argument, telling the media in the Big Ten spring teleconference that he would be for an earlier signing period.

“Our conference has discussed it a lot, which has been good,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, via BTN.com. “I wish the early signing period was even earlier. But it is what it is. It’s probably a positive.”

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst is an advocate for further reform for a three-step signing period.

“I liked when they were talking about a June, December and February signing period,” said Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst, via BTN.com. “Now you have too many offers being extended, some commitments are real and some aren’t. If you have a real offer and a kid wants to sign in June and he won’t take it, then it’s not a real offer. Same with December and same with February. I like the new December date, but I liked the earlier proposal with three signing days.”

However, not everyone is on board as we mentioned. That includes Penn State head coach James Franklin, who has been one of the most aggressive recruiters in the country while trying to re-make the Nittany Lions’ roster.

“I worry that there may be a lot of unforeseen consequences that come with these things,” said Penn State coach James Franklin to BTN. “People may consider me a young coach, but I kind of have an old-school mentality. But I worry about the unforeseen consequences of the decisions we are making.”

The other big thing, one that could affect the Big Ten more than any other conference, is the approval of official visits for the 2019 class to start on April 1 of their junior year.

It will allow student-athletes who want to visit schools far away from home the opportunity to do that at the expense of the program. Additionally, it will allow schools an opportunity to get student-athletes on campus when the weather is about as good as it can possibly get in the Upper Midwest.

On the surface, these reforms to the recruiting process seem to be a win across the board for the Big Ten.

Teams recruiting at the top have chances to lock down recruits before the craziness of the final month of recruiting, while schools that need recruits on campus to win them over get that opportunity earlier in the process as well.

What some are also failing to see is that this also gives a lot more control over the recruiting process to the player involved. He could choose to get the process over quickly, take an early visit in the spring and sign in December. Conversely, the player could also choose to slow the process down and take official visits in the fall and winter and then sign with a team in February.

A lot will need to be figured out in a process in which coaches love to have control. Giving up that control will be interesting to say the least.

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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