Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Signing period needs changes
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman speaks Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, during a press conference to discuss the early signing period at the Fred W. Smith Football Center on the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — The currently toothless, spineless, edging toward out of business NCAA lacks the bite, will and clout to consider it, but somebody should ponder scrapping college football’s December early signing period.
Allegedly intended to provide more options for high school senior athletes seeking to play college football, the so-called December option has practically become the better sign now or risk finding nothing but filled rosters before what used to be the prevailing February signing period.
Early signing seems far less about providing options for athletes and more about allowing more control all the earlier for control-freak coaches.
Pressure on high school athletes increases not only to sign in December but to graduate high school in December for a spring ball head start by enrolling as a college freshman in January.
Knowing that so many must regret sacrificing their high school senior year’s spring semester to enroll early for a sport they would prematurely abandon or abandon them, it seems early enrollment could bear more risks than rewards.
Especially as it seems control-freak coaches can’t control their own impulses, much less control the athletic directors and alumni hiring and firing them.
That’s why the coaching carousel started spinning even in September. It began with impatient athletic directors and alumni with itchy firing fingers. And it ranges to the late-November shockers of Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to Southern California and Brian Kelly from Notre Dame to LSU, abandoning one zillionaire job for another leaving stunned recruiting classes verbally committed to sign in December.
It seems all would be better served if rather than feeling December pressured to stay committed to a program headed by the hastily hired, athletes comfortably could wait for situations better sorted by February.
Better like any bowl
More and more it seems these surprisingly 8-4 Razorbacks of second-year Coach Sam Pittman equate a good bowl with a Florida-based bowl like New Year’s Eve at the Gator in Jacksonville or New Year’s Day at the Citrus in Orlando or the Outback in Tampa.
So here’s a what-if warning should Sunday’s bowl shakeouts find the Razorbacks playing Dec. 30 at the Music City Bowl in Nashville or somewhere else minus Florida sunshine.
Pouting teams tend to get bowled over in bowl games.
Just ask Houston Nutt’s 2002 Razorbacks. As then 9-4 SEC West champions, those nationally ranked 25th Hogs believed themselves entitled to a higher stature, or least warmer-weather bowl than Music City in Nashville.
They played out of tune in Music City. The unranked, 7-5 Minnesota Golden Gophers whipped Arkansas 29-14.
The Razorbacks under Pittman have been ever resilient . They’ll need that resilience should their bowl ship not dock under Florida sunshine.
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