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College Football Signing Day Marks the Beginning of a New Journey

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It started with a love of football, turned into a dream of playing in college and led to being recruited by coaches. After all that hard work, a new NCAA journey begins with college football signing day. National Signing Day for football is when a high school student-athlete can first make an official commitment to a college with a National Letter of Intent. By signing the dotted line, the player ends the recruitment process and starts a new exciting phase with the future college program.

As opposed to a verbal commitment, which many big football recruits make early in the process, a letter of intent is a legally binding contract between the student-athlete and school. It protects both the college and student from either party backing out of the agreement. The football recruit pledges to attend at least one year at the university, which promises to provide an athletic scholarship in return. Considering the relative finality of a football letter of intent, entering into the contract should not be taken lightly. The National Letter of Intent program includes 676 Division I and II participating institutions as DIII schools are barred from using letters of intent.

When Is College Football Signing Day?

Football is the most popular sport in college athletics. Therefore, it’s no surprise that college football signing day has become a significant spectacle for fans as well as the players and coaches involved. National Signing Day for football is historically on the first Wednesday of February. However, the early signing period for football in mid-December is becoming even more popular.

The blue-chip prospects generally soak up the most attention on National Signing Day. After all, these players could one day lead a program to a bowl championship. Media outlets will often cover the biggest football recruits as they reveal their decisions live during press conferences. The college football signing day tradition is for the player to put on the cap of the chosen school.

However, there are more than 73,000 student-athletes who play NCAA football every year. Most of these players were not highly touted on college football recruiting websites. That’s why it’s crucial for every scholarship hopeful to know when is National Signing Day. The NLI signing dates for football are as follows:

Division I (early period)

December 20, 2023

December 22, 2023

Division I and Division II (mid-year JC transfer)

December 20, 2023

January 15, 2024
Division I (regular period)

February 7, 2024

April 1, 2024

Division II (regular period)

February 7, 2024 August 1, 2024

Early Signing Period for Football

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The college football early signing period was instituted in 2017 as a way for coaches to lock up verbal commitments before the start of the new year. Since then, the 72-hour signing window in December has become even more significant than the traditional February college football signing day. Roughly 85 percent of the new roster spots for 2019 FBS programs filled up during the early signing period for football. That was a total of 2,224 players, which included most of the top 100 football recruits.

Coaches may even think twice about the reliability of a verbally committed player who fails to submit a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period for football. Failing to provide a national letter of intent could lead to a program giving a roster spot to another player who appears to be a “sure thing.” Despite the risks, there are reasons for some student-athletes to wait until college football signing day in February. For example, there tends to be a lot of college football coaching changes at the end of the year. Waiting two months will give a better idea of what a program’s staff will look like.

For football recruits who know where they want to go, however, making it official during the early signing period for football can be a major relief. The college program will also appreciate getting the roster that much closer to complete for the next season. Furthermore, players who commit during the college football early signing period have the opportunity for early spring enrollment. While this can help you get acclimated to campus life and football training before the season starts, it means missing out on your last semester in high school.

How Does the NCAA Oversee College Football Recruiting?

The recruiting process leading up to college football signing day can be intense. As of 2019, there are 671 NCAA colleges with football programs. While the Football Bowl Subdivision attracts most of the attention, more players will compete in one of the other divisions. The breakdown of NCAA football is as follows:

All these college football programs are competing to find student-athletes who can excel on and off the field. To limit intrusions into students’ lives, the NCAA places some restrictions on college football recruiting. There are limits as to when and how often coaches can contact football recruits, offer official campus visits and hold camps and clinics.

Why Is There a National Signing Day for Football?

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Having a National Letter of Intent day provides another way to regulate and control college football recruiting. The NIL program was established in 1964 to stop schools from stealing each other’s recruits. Once a football letter of intent is signed, other colleges are barred from recruiting the player. NLI signing dates are set by the NCAA to help facilitate a structured recruiting process. While many players fax the NIL on college football signing day, they are permitted to submit the documents at any time during the signing period.

It’s important to note that a National Letter of Intent is voluntary. Furthermore, universities do not have to enter the program. Due to the security of the contract, however, most student-athletes and schools participate in college football signing day. Junior colleges and schools that compete in the NAIA also have their own versions of the football letter of intent.

For the NIL to be accepted, it must be signed by both the student and a guardian. The football letter of intent is separate from financial aid, which has its own documents that need to be signed. Student-athletes should remember that committing on college football signing day does not guarantee admission into the school. Colleges have their own admission standards that must be met for enrollment. If you change your mind and decide to break a football letter of intent, you lose one year of eligibility as a player.

What Makes a Good College Football Recruit?

Football is often called the ultimate team game. When it comes to recruiting, coaches are looking for athletes who can adapt to a program’s culture. This means being willing to work hard in a specific role and possibly sit out a year as a red-shirt freshman. Colleges are also impressed by players who are mature and have their academics in order. Coaches don’t like dealing with students who must miss games due to off-the-field issues.

Of course, being a stand-out athlete will also garner attention from recruiters. Analysts give desirable football players star rankings based on their playing abilities. At the top of the list are 5-star recruits, who make up the best 30 players coming out of high school. These athletes are good enough to start as freshmen at elite universities.

A 4-star prospect is also good enough to get recruited by a school in a Power Five conference. About 300 of the nation’s top high school players fall in this category. At the 3-star level, prospects are considered good enough to start at a top program after spending a season or two developing as backups. Overall, less than 1 percent of recruits get ranked at 3 stars or higher.

What Are the Best Football Recruit Ranking Websites?

Recruit rankings have only helped to enhance the drama of college football National Signing Day. If you’re good enough to get noticed by a scouting website, you can expect a happy college football signing day. The following are the four major services that assign star rankings:

ESPN: As perhaps the biggest TV network for college football, it’s only fitting that ESPN has the most referenced power rankings for high school prospects. This site provides a variety of player information, including athletic test results, scouting reports and even recruiting history.

Rivals: As part of the Yahoo! Sports family, Rivals is powered by more than 300 writers and reporters at the local level. The site provides a lot of individual player data in easy-to-digest tables and graphs.

Scout: This site is associated with CBS Sports and MaxPreps, which provides some pretty thorough high school sports coverage. The ranking table offers some unique display perimeters that you can adjust by state, position and more.

247Sports: For a composite of all three of the recruiting services, head to 247Sports. This site is also associated with CBS Sports and

Which Colleges Get the Best Recruiting Classes?

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On National Signing Day for football, most of the top recruits are snatched up by colleges in the Power Five conferences. These are the FBS’s most competitive conferences, and they include the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. While most teams in those conferences have strong programs, there are a few schools that attract even more recruits.

Alabama has had the No. 1 recruiting class in four of the last five years. Not coincidentally, the Crimson Tide has also appeared in four of the last five national championship games. Some of the other most successful recruiters include Georgia and LSU in the SEC, Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten and Florida State and Clemson in the ACC. These schools can attract student-athletes on NCAA signing day with their top-level coaches, practice facilities, fan bases and academics.

The Success That Follows College Football Signing Day

College football National Signing Day is obviously a momentous event for those student-athletes who have worked hard through tough seasons and a complicated recruiting process. However, it’s important to remember that signing a letter of intent is just the beginning of a new journey. Many college athletes go on to fulfill dreams of playing professionally. Of course, getting drafted will involve maintaining the work ethic developed in high school. Some notable highly touted recruits who have enjoyed successful NFL careers include Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, Jared Goff and Bryan Bulaga.

What Is a College Football Walk-On?

Not every dream of gridiron glory is sowed on college football signing day. If you weren’t recruited by your preferred college, you could try to make the team as a walk-on. This means playing without a college football scholarship. While it’s an uphill battle, there have been hundreds of walk-ons who have gone on to successful football careers. The most notable recent example is Baker Mayfield, who walked-on at Texas Tech before winning a Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma and being the No.1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Some other famous walk-ons who skipped NCAA signing day include NFL players like Clay Matthews, J.J. Watt and Antonio Brown.

In addition to the lack of scholarship money, walking on at a major program often means going through a tryout and being relegated to the scout team. However, some dedicated players go this route for the opportunity to play with a specific program. A walk-on who proves to be a worthy player could later be offered a college football scholarship.

College Football Scholarships

Enjoying a triumphant National Signing Day for football doesn’t happen by accident. It’s important to get noticed by recruiters, and that’s where NCSA College Recruiting can help. NCSA makes the recruiting process easier by maintaining an online platform that connects players and coaches. The network is backed by a team of 700-plus employees, which includes many recruiting experts, as well as partnerships with organizations such as the NFL Players Association, Rivals and USA Today High School Sports. Coaches know they can turn to NCSA to gather information on prospects. It certainly worked for Jared Goff and Bryan Bulaga, both former NCSA clients.

NCAA Signing Day

The goal of NCSA is to get student-athletes one step closer to college signing day. More than 82 percent of U.S. college athletic programs have rosters with at least one NCSA athlete, and those numbers are growing. There are over 50,000 coaches using the system to find recruits. From FBS hopefuls to those searching for DII scholarships, the network is open to everybody. Take the mystery out of the recruiting process and learn more about college football signing day with NCSA.

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