Athletes can sign with their preferred school on any day during the signing period. Signing Day is only the first day of the signing period. Seniors in high school might choose to graduate a semester early in order to begin college one semester earlier. These players would be considered juniors in college and could sign on that date as well.
The earliest date a player can sign with a Division I program is January 15. Programs are allowed to have additional days after this date to add additional signatures. Some programs may have a second signing period if they fail to meet their enrollment target by the initial signing period deadline.
Players who sign with a school outside of the signing period (i.e. before January 20 or after May 25) are not eligible to play right away. They must wait until the next recruiting season to compete for a spot on the team. Even if they were to impress coaches enough to make the roster, they would not be able to play until the following year because of NCAA rules regarding freshmen athletes.
Division II and III schools do not have a formal signing period. However, it is very common for players to sign with these schools around National Signing Day in February. Often, these players will join Division I schools later in the spring when they open their doors to students for the summer months.
This is the moment when players who have received verbal offers from college coaches make their sports scholarships official by signing their National Letter of Intent. Signing Day is the opening day of the signing period, and it is celebrated with parties, displays, and a lot of college stuff.
The first national signing day was held in February 1879 at Chicago's Northwestern University. The morning began with a mass execution of signed letters of intent by members of the university community following a parade through downtown Chicago. That same day, students across America walked out of class to celebrate the coming of spring and the start of a new academic year.
In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison appointed a committee to propose changes to existing rules regarding athletic recruiting. One recommendation made by this group was to establish a single day each year when colleges could announce their football intentions. The president then followed up with an executive order that created what we know today as National Signing Day. In 1971, Congress passed legislation making February 1st National Signing Day.
Over the years, National Signing Day has become a major event on the college sports calendar. It is now considered the kickoff to the recruiting season for many athletes and the beginning of early entry opportunities for high school seniors.
Student-athletes are not required by law to sign their national letters of intent on the first day of the signing period, although many do. The following are the signing dates for student-athletes signing in 2019-2020 for 2020-21 enrollment: August 30 (postponed from July 1) for fall sports and January 2 for spring sports.
In addition to these dates, some schools have additional requirements for when they must sign. These include but are not limited to the number of days prior to signing, such practices must start. Others require that all players sign by a certain date after being offered a scholarship. Still others have a policy of never accepting a fax as proof of acceptance into school; instead, students must hand write or type their letter of intent.
The following is a list of college football teams and their reported signing dates for national letters of intent:
Alabama - August 30
Arizona State - August 30
Arkansas - September 6
Auburn - October 15
UCF - November 11
USC - November 25
Utah - December 9
Virginia - December 16
West Virginia - December 23
The early signing period for 2019 college football prospects runs from Wednesday, December 19, through Friday, December 21. The date of National Signing Day in 2019 is February 6, 2019. Some of the nation's best recruits will sign a national letter of intent to play for the school of their choosing during the early signing period. All schools have the ability to negotiate with these recruits before they can be signed by another team.
In 2018, over $100 million was pledged by colleges and universities to recruit athletes. That's up from about $60 million in 2009.
Almost all major sports have adopted some form of early signing day. Baseball and basketball have been doing so for several years now. Football remains one of the only major sports that doesn't have an early signing day.
Student-athletes should bring the NCAA Division III Student-Athlete Celebratory Signing Form.
This is simply not true. The first day your athlete may sign their NLI is known as Signing Day. Congratulations if you obtain an NLI before signing day. Your efforts in recruitment have paid off. However, there are many athletes that receive National Letters of Intent (NLI) well after signing day. In fact, some programs will send hundreds of NLIs each year and it is very unlikely that they will follow through with any of them.
The only way an athlete can be considered for additional offers or recruits after signing day is if they remain committed to the school they signed with early in February. If an athlete tells us that they want to visit other schools and doesn't sign with us by March 1st, we cannot offer them a contract. We need to know this early so that we have time to find another player.
Here at USC, we refer to these players as "committed prospects". We use this term because even though they have obtained an NLI, we believe that there is a chance they could change their mind and not sign with us. If this were to happen, we would lose all rights to them. They would become a free agent and be able to visit other schools without any restrictions.
USC has several commitments from high school players every year.
Colleges can grant football scholarships after the national signing day, although this is uncommon. At the time of publishing, college football sign-day is held on February 10th of each year.
The earliest a student-athlete could receive an offer is his or her senior year in high school. Generally, schools want to see more mature players who have had several years to develop their skills. Some high-profile recruits don't receive their first offer until after their junior year in college.
A player cannot accept an offer after sign-day but before he or she enrolls at the college. This means that if a student-athlete receives an offer from a school days before he or she signs with that school, then he or she would have to turn down the offer.
It is common for recruits to receive multiple offers. Most coaches will tell you that they are not sure where a prospect stands among other candidates. They may also want to give everyone a chance to watch the recruit play over the season. There may be changes to their recruiting board or coaching staff after these interviews take place. That is when it becomes important for recruits to follow their instincts and go with where they feel most comfortable.
Players should never worry about what other people think about them going into a decision.