As Division I football considers creating an early signing period, the Colorado high school football community is split on whether or not they should do so.
A proposal to create a second 72-hour signing period in mid-December could be voted on by the NCAA Division I Council as early as April. It has received overwhelming support from college coaches.
The existing signing period that begins in February would remain in place, but if the December period is created, it will undoubtedly change the landscape of recruiting in college football.
But will it be for the better?
"I guess the question is, if it benefits colleges and kids, what's the reasoning for it?" said Chatfield coach Bret McGatlin.
Why have a December period?
That's the thing with this proposal: It hasn't really filtered down to the high school level yet. Many coaches and players we spoke to were just learning about it.
At their annual conference in Nashville last month, which 100 of 128 coaches reportedly attended, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) unanimously voted to endorse the December signing period. Supporters include Colorado's Mike MacIntyre and Colorado State's Mike Bobo, who each confirmed their approval for the early period to CHSAANow.com this week.
Coaches across the country voiced their support for it during National Signing Day on Wednesday, with many arguing that it could reduce the stress on both sides over December and January.
Reasons vary, obviously, but at his press conference on Signing Day, University of Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, the 2017 president of the AFCA, gave a glimpse to perhaps one reason why.
Rodriguez spoke for nearly ten minutes in frustration about the "circus" that is Signing Day, and about recruits decommitting. (These sentiments were echoed by other coaches on Wednesday.) His staff did research and found that 757 recruits had decommitted from Division I programs in the 2017 class.
"That's 23 percent of the class. One out of every four have decommitted," Rodriguez said.
Then he estimated that a school will spend roughly $27,000 on a kid once they commit.
"So all the ADs out there listening, or presidents of universities that are listening: If you want to save your program money, get out of this ridiculous circus that is National Signing Day where kids are pulling hats out of boxes and jumping out of helicopters and announcing where they're going," Rodriguez said.
"You're glorifying these kids to where they can never meet the expectation," he added. "And I don't blame it on the kids, and I don't blame it on the sites that try to get rankings. But some of these young men will never live up to the hype post-today. And that's a shame. Because they're still young, they're still developing. Particularly in our sport."
"There's no feeling like this"
One man's circus is another man's celebration. The kids, for obvious reasons, really seem to enjoy the Signing Day experience.
"I think it brings some cool tradition," said Cherry Creek's Jonathan Van Diest, who signed with Colorado on Wednesday.
"Yes, it would be relieving for kids to sign early," Columbine's Mikey Griebel, a North Dakota signee, said on Tuesday, "but the point is to sign with your best buddies. Which I am doing tomorrow and I'm so thankful for it."
On Wednesday, with a Wyoming hat atop his head — he'd just signed with the Cowboys — Denver South's Esaias Gandy had a wide smile as he relived the moment: "There’s no feeling like this," he said. "You doubt yourself, you doubt if it's even going to happen, but I'm just living the dream right now."
Of course, that feeling would still be there in mid-December. But ...
"This is the biggest Signing Day that South has ever had, so that would take away this environment," Gandy said. "There's no environment like this — all of our families together. That would split the families in half."
Valor Christian's Christian Elliss, who signed with Idaho, said an early period would "change (Signing Day) a lot, because it would be divided and people would sign at different times."
Athletes who had long since made up their minds would definitely benefit from a December signing period. Valor Christian quarterback Dylan McCaffrey committed to Michigan in February 2016.
"I've been 100 percent Michigan since I committed. That was a big part for me," McCaffrey said on Wednesday. "And I know a lot of other guys like that. I think (the December period) would be a really great idea. You can kind of be a part of a team earlier."
Dakota Ridge's Keegan Cryder, who committed early to Wyoming, agreed.
"I think I would have taken advantage of that opportunity," he said of signing early. "I was offered a scholarship during (Wyoming's) summer camp in June. I committed in July. I knew I was going to go. I don't see the point in having the extra time to wait."
Chatfield's McGatlin watched as Dalton Keene, who signed as a mid-year enrollee with Virginia Tech, dealt with a hectic recruitment towards the end.
"That (December) day is probably going to be set aside for the elite of the elite," McGatlin said. "If you look in our state, there's probably six or seven of those kids a year. Those are the ones that they sign early and they're done. I think that's good for the kid, too. Those extra two months, they're a long two months."
Time may be needed
Even if the December signing period is created, the one in February would still exist.
And, for someone like Noah Elliss, a Valor Christian defensive lineman who committed in the week before Signing Day, that's important.
"If I did it in December, I would have kind of had to rush through it," said Elliss, who signed with Mississippi State. "I think if you know where you want to go, and what you want to major in, then I think athletes should sign in December. And then if you're just waiting, want to think it out with your family, you can just wait until February."
Said McCaffrey: "The February one is important. Because I know a lot of guys are always constantly changing their minds, and it might not be the right fit for them, so they have to change."
Vista Ridge lineman Jalen Sami had offers that came in very late in the process.
"I think to have the period earlier would probably hurt him a little bit," Vista Ridge coach Jeremi Calip said of Sami, who ultimately signed with Colorado. "But there are some kids, like (Keene) at Chatfield. He had an offer and a commitment early. If it fits you, I think it's okay. But some kids, you just never know."
Sami said he "probably would've held off" if there was a December signing period. "January is when the big recruiting push comes in before that Feb. 1 day," he said.
Said Valor's Christian Elliss, who committed 11 days before Signing Day: "I think people could miss out on opportunities that come up after December."
The December period may also help clarify for some kids where they stand.
"If the Division I signing period goes earlier, does it allow those kids then to reevaluate and retarget within their schools?" said Valor Christian coach Rod Sherman. "That's what I think the positive thing about spacing them out. There are a lot of kids who are still thinking, 'Oh man, something might happen' (with a Division I offer), and they don't want to engage with the D-II school. By separating it out, I wonder if that would help the D-II and D-III schools in January."
Fairview coach Tom McCartney agreed.
"I think sometimes young men really want to be Division I in the worst way, and they hold out hope," he said. "And then all of a sudden, there's really nothing there for them. All of the Division II schools that have been hanging in there with them, now maybe (the December period) would help with that."
But there's also this to consider: Many college coaches change jobs in December and January, including both head coaches and assistants.
"Those coaches will recruit those kids, and then they'll leave," said Denver South coach Tony Lindsay Sr. "They'll leave those kids sitting up there. That's jacked up."
Lindsay has personal experience. His son, Tony Jr., was recruited to Oklahoma State by then-offensive coordinator Les Miles. Miles left to become the tight ends coach with the Dallas Cowboys.
"Les Miles lived in my house. He was recruiting him. He left," Lindsay said. "He was in my house, talking to me and he's the one — 'OK, (Tony Jr.'s) coming because you are here.' And then he left. That's not cool. And if they can't back out of it, they're stuck."
"There's so much coaching change, whether it's coordinators or a head coach, that happens in December and January," said Fairview's McCartney, "that it's really difficult if you've been recruited by somebody and then there's a change."
There's still a lot left to be figured out. The NCAA Division I Council, made up of 40 members, is set to meet in April. If they vote and approve the December signing period, it is certain to cause upheaval in football's recruiting landscape.
And, for a time, there may be a lot of confusion in the wake of that decision at the high school level.
Just as there is now.
"I'm torn," Valor's Christian Elliss said, laughing. "I'm actually not too sure about this."
Dan Mohrmann and Dennis Pleuss contributed to this story.