Nebraska’s Shawn Eichorst, Others in Big Ten Favor Earlier Paid Visits, Early Signing Period
College football may be closing in on significant change to the when, where and how of recruiting.
“More so than ever, there is optimism,’’ Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst said at the Big Ten meetings. “The devil is in the details. I have not heard folks are totally opposed to revisiting the entire recruiting calendar.
“I think you have to. Recruiting has totally changed. This is a national recruiting situation. I get the regional stuff if you are in a region with population, but a majority of us don’t have that. So I think you need to look at it from a national platform.’’
The machinery for change appears in place following the NCAA’s retooling of its governance system, essentially allowing Power Five schools to craft their own rules.
The Big Ten has two prominent people in that structure.
Eichorst is on the Division I Football Oversight Committee. And above that, Northwestern A.D. Jim Phillips is chairman of the NCAA Division I Council.
That doesn’t mean these men can force change, but both will be intricately involved in what’s to come.
“We’re at a time with our structure where we can definitely preserve what we have but also improve and enhance the game from A to Z,’’ Eichorst said. “Big Ten people are interested in recruiting, early signing, camps and regional clinics.
“If you are thinking about early signing, you have to think about earlier access. And now that we are able to pay for parents to make official visits, we have to look at staff sizes to handle that.’’
Big Ten schools have different ideas on what recruiting calendar changes to consider.
West Division schools, which generally are farther from large population centers, are interested in allowing paid official visits in the summer. The current calendar, which allows official visits once the fall semester begins, often limits how many recruits can come from long distances.
Schools in both divisions differ on whether a December signing period is worthwhile.
One thing apparently all agree on is that Big Ten schools aren’t disadvantaged in the current world of recruiting, despite the oversigning that occurs most often in the SEC and ACC.
“I really don’t see us disadvantaged,’’ Michigan State A.D. Mark Hollis said. “I chose and love being in the Big Ten. There are pros and cons that come with that.’’
Eichorst said he also hasn’t heard any excuse-making from conference colleagues.
“We have so many incredible strengths in the league,’’ he said. “And then, look at the output. We’ve been doing pretty well.’’
Still, change often is good, and new roads have been built to consider change.
“Today is a different day,’’ Eichorst said. “It’s a new structure. The oversight committee has certain authority and autonomy to try to bring fundamental fairness.
“The level-playing-field thing is not a reality, but I think there is fundamental fairness.’’
Eichorst said he holds monthly teleconferences with Big Ten athletic directors and football coaches to let them know what the committee is talking about and to get input for future conversations.
“There are times you have to put on your (Big Ten) hat based on where you’re at,’’ he said, “and then there are times you have to take it off in the room with other committee colleagues.’’
The NCAA governance process has long been more like a march through mud than a speedy freeway ride. The new system gives hope that those in charge can address more issues in far less time.
“For me, nothing is off the table,’’ Eichorst said. “You’ve got to keep football as healthy as we possibly can, at all levels.’’