June official visits, early signing on Big Ten football coaches' minds

Published: May 19 2010 | 11:35 am - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 1:15 am in
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Expansion is a myth for Big Ten football coaches. What was in front of them Tuesday at the Big Ten meetings was legislation they wanted to push with the NCAA board of directors.

Two topics that were on the table were a June official visits for prospects and the possibility of an early-signing period.

"I'd be in favor of that (June visits)," Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez said Wednesday. "I'd be in favor of early signing. I'm in favor or things that would help our sport, help football."

Big Ten coaches formulated a proposal for spring official visits last year, but it didn't go any farther.

Currently, prospects are allowed five official visits during their senior year of high school. Recruits have started shouldering some of the cost with unofficial visits. An official visit is paid for by the school. It also allows recruits a 48-hour window to get a feel for the campus. 

Alvarez believes coaches from the south have steered the official visits to their advantage. Per NCAA rules, prospects can't take their official visit until their senior year begins, so that's at least September.

"The ones who weren't in favor were the warm-weather coaches," Alvarez said. "I guess they want kids visiting us in December."

Alvarez also said coaches are in favor of an early-signing period. Now, football prospects don't make it official until the signing period begins the first week of February.

The early signing would be December.

"Most of our coaches have five or 10 commitments now. Why not let the kids sign?" Alvarez said. "Take the onus off our coaches to go visit with them every week. Maybe that would eliminate some of those late defections."

AAU, except for you

Going into expansion, every Big Ten Conference school is a member of the AAU, the Association of American Univsersities.

The AAU is a collection of 63 leading public and private research institutions in the United States and Canada.

"It's very important," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "AAU membership is an important part of who we are. It was an important part of who we are (when the Big Ten added) Penn State, and it's an important aspect of what makes an institution a research institution, an undergraduate school, a school that serves the public at a high level."

Guess which rumored expansion candidate isn't a member of the AAU? Notre Dame is not, but it carries a more-than-healthy academic reputation.

Delany was asked if AAU membership was mandatory for an expansion candidates.

"We're not there," he said. "I'm not going to qualify or disqualify, but it's a very important factor."

Alvarez was asked the same question Wednesday.

"(AAU membership) is important, right now," he said with a wry smile, knowing that Notre Dame isn't in the AAU.

The process

It's true that the Big Ten won't just pull a school into the conference. Schools need to apply and receive eight votes from the conference's 11 presidents to be admitted.

But it's a giant "wink, wink" deal. No school will apply without first knowing it will get in.

"I would presume that nobody would apply without knowing they were welcome to apply," Delany said. "We’re not interested in embarrassing ourselves, or embarrassing anyone else. So the process of due diligence is a long one, but the process of formal conversations about it is a shorter one. The head’s up (other conference commissioners) would get would be before a public announcement, but probably not months before a public announcement.” 

The Wisconsin athletics director discusses an early-signing period and a proposal that Big Ten coaches are pitching to move an official visting period to June.

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