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SEC coaches, including Nick Saban, still irritated by new NCAA recruiting rules

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Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

DESTIN, Fla. – Arkansas’ Bret Bielema will gladly tell you all the reasons he favors an early signing period in college football. South Carolina’s Will Muschamp will cite all the reasons it’s a poor rule. Alabama’s Nick Saban said the change simply isn’t necessary.

It’s safe to say the SEC coaches aren’t in total agreement on the new NCAA recruiting rules. Bielema thinks it’s a 50-50 split among league coaches; others think the divide is far greater, more like 10-4 against.

Whatever the breakdown, we know there is a significant difference of opinion.

“I don’t see that there’s a whole lot wrong with the (recruiting) calendar we have now,” Saban said Tuesday at the SEC spring meetings. “It’s worked really, really well for college football for a long, long time. But it may go back to one of those things where I talked about somebody having an agenda that benefits them.”

Who “somebody” is and what that actual agenda might be? Saban didn’t get into that.

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While Saban said a late December early signing date is “way better than before their senior year” – there had been a proposal for a signing period in early August – he strongly dislikes the idea of allowing official visits in April, May and June.

On that, at least, most SEC coaches agree. Even Bielema doesn’t like the April and May official visits. He said they should all take place in June.

Bielema says a December signing period will cut out the practice of some coaches reneging on an offer days before the February National Signing Day and leaving a player without a home – or, at least, a preferred home.

“It would make certain schools force their hand,” Bielema said. “There’s a lot of times where we in recruiting say, ‘That kid is committed to that school, but we really don’t think there is a scholarship waiting for him because of an academic or numbers situation,’ and sometimes those kids get released . . . one week before signing day, and that kid has no scholarship and no other options.”

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He said if the December signing period had been in place this past recruiting cycle, between 75 and 90 percent of his 2017 class would have signed six weeks before the National Signing Day.

“In January, some kids still want to be coddled, keep dating,” Bielema said. “I want them to sign. Let’s get married. It lets you know where you stand with that kid.”

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