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Grip on Sports: Football’s early signing period seemed like a good idea at the time, but there are always unintended consequences

Willie Taggart gestures as he is introduced as Florida State's new football coach during an NCAA college football news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (Mark Wallheiser / Associated Press)
Willie Taggart gestures as he is introduced as Florida State's new football coach during an NCAA college football news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (Mark Wallheiser / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Have the bowl games begun yet? All the flotsam and jetsam – in some cases, both – that have littered the college football horizons the past couple weeks makes us yearn for on-the-field action to return. Read on.


• Before we get there, however, we will have to wade through the newest NCAA invention: football’s early signing period.

That begins in less than a week. And it is already having unintended consequences. Financial ones.

How? Let’s say Farber College’s athletic director hears his football coach is being wooed by Harrison University. He’s not sure he wants to keep coach Klein, but he knows if he leaves, Farber will lose the impressive recruiting class headlined by three-star linebacker Bobby Boucher. After all, if Klein departs, there are only a few weeks before kids begin signing letters of intent.

So he sweetens Klein’s contract and keeps him in the fold.

But that’s only part of the impact. Schools are losing assistant coaches all over the country, as per usual when the regular season ends. Up until this season, most head coaches would just backfill, using graduate assistants to plug the holes through the bowl season and then hire someone prior to the February signing dates.

Not anymore. If a quarterback is part of the recruiting class, you better believe coach O’Shea is scrambling to make sure he has an offensive coordinator in place before this week is out. He wants to ensure the incoming quarterback is comfortable with the guy calling the Annexation of Puerto Rico.

So assistants’ salaries are heading upward as well, using the wave of urgency to rise even higher than they would have.

And there are the non-financial effects. Oregon’s Willie Taggart knew he couldn’t waste a minute when Florida State called. So he used his recruiting trip for the Ducks as a springboard for an interview. Classy.

Those are just some of the unintended consequences from the change. The intended ones are still in play as well.

High school football players had to spend their senior season worrying about the next step. Those quaint old days of playing your heart out one last time for the Kilpatrick Mustangs before having to sit down and make a reasoned choice are long gone.

Oh sure, a player can wait until February if they want. But then they risk having fewer choices. Schools may fill their quota of defensive backs or linemen in December, meaning those who want more time to weigh alternatives may see what they are weighing disappear.

But don’t worry. Coach Beaulieu has a fat new contract.


WSU: Isaiah Johnson-Mack is free to return home and accept a scholarship anywhere in Florida. Theo Lawson has the story. … Hercules Mata’afa may not have been the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, but he is a first-team Associated Press All-American. Theo also has that story as well as showing how he voted in this week’s AP basketball poll. As do others. … The next Cougar fan favorite quarterback, Cammon Cooper, had a heck of a senior year in Utah.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, it’s never too early to look forward to next season and who will be the breakout stars. … The bowl matchups have some intrigue, but none more than Oregon versus Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. … The Foster Farms Bowl hopes Khalil Tate will return to midseason form. … The Cotton Bowl will see Ronald Jones for USC. … UCLA has fired a couple of assistants before the Cactus Bowl, because new coach Chip Kelly is filling next year’s staff. … Stanford needs a new offensive coordinator. It is hiring a former player. … Will new Arizona State coach Herm Edwards need to hire a defensive coordinator? … Colorado is losing a wide receiver. … In basketball, Washington is still digesting the loss to Gonzaga. … Oregon was tested by Texas Southern, but prevailed. … Oregon State expects a test from Jacksonville State. … There are reasons Arizona State is so good. … Utah is relying on a freshman inside.

Gonzaga: The Zags’ team defense came together Sunday night to rein in the Huskies, keeping them out of the key and taking away the ball-screen action they love so much. Jim Meehan has more in this day-after analysis. … Jim also tells us Gonzaga remained 12th in the polls despite its 1-1 week. … Elsewhere in the WCC, BYU will face Utah this weekend without Nick Emery, who tried to explain what has been going on his life.

EWU: Let’s sing together now. “On the road again” … Jim Allen has a preview of the next game in the Eagles’ series of them away from Cheney. … Around the Big Sky, a former Montana football player is still dealing with the authorities in Pullman.

Seahawks: Hey, the Hawks are sorry for the way they acted at the end of the Jacksonville game. That seems to be good enough for the NFL, who isn’t expected to suspend anyone. … That’s good news for Seattle, since it needs to win Sunday against the Rams to get back into the playoff picture.

Mariners: The Winter Meetings are under way in Florida. The M’s are sure to do something. … Dee Gordon is already working on his outfield skills and his crossover.


• It may finally be time to get rid of my land line. I have kept it around all these years to serve as the depository for all superfluous telephone calls. You know, the scams and ads and whatnot. But the evil forces behind those calls have now learned my cell number, threatening me with jail or worse if I don’t give them my social security number within the next 24 hours. If those calls aren’t going to go to my home number anymore, why do I still have a land line? Until later … 

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