Football recruiting a likely topic at Big Ten meetings

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Things haven’t been as busy in college sports this spring as they have in recent years, but the Big Ten’s athletic directors will be convening over the next couple of days at conference headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois, all the same.

Their Joint Group Meetings will take place Monday and Tuesday and also will include senior woman administrators from each of the 14 schools in the Big Ten, as well as women’s basketball coaches.

There will be plenty to talk about for everyone, including Michigan State’s Mark Hollis and Michigan’s Warde Manuel. Some of the items likely on the agenda are bigger picture and some affect each school more directly than others.

One of the biggest shifts over the past couple of months that will certainly be discussed is the change in football recruiting. An early signing period was approved, creating a 72-hour signing period between the dates of Dec. 20 to 22. The dates will coincide with the first three days of the midyear junior college signings.

It’s an issue that has been around a long time and seems to have overall support, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be issues. It gives programs and recruits a chance to lock up classes earlier than in the past, but it also could be an adjustment, especially if there are coaching changes in between the early period and the traditional period at the start of February.

It could also hurt the late-developing player that draws an offer late in the process. That prospect could be hurt by the early period.

“I worry that there may be a lot of unforeseen consequences that come with these things,” Penn State coach James Franklin told “People may consider me a young coach, but I kind of have an old-school mentality. But I worry about the unforeseen consequences of the decisions we are making.”

Added Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, “We will learn as we go along. No one can predict the impact it will have until we go through a cycle or two. It’s encouraging because it’s change and we all can agree that we need change. The model we are using now has gotten really antiquated.”

The early signing period was just one issue the NCAA Division I Council recommended. It approved teams adding a 10th full-time assistant, effective in January 2018, while also prohibiting oversigning.

Football scheduling likely will also come up as the Big Ten begins with Friday games this season, something that wasn’t universally supported by all the schools in the conference. Michigan and Ohio State both said they wanted no part of the Friday games and Michigan State — which has hosted a non-conference game to open each of the previous five years — said it would only be willing to host a game.

None of those three will play a Friday conference game, but the push to add them could come up.

For Michigan State and Michigan, specifically, there’s the building momentum toward playing a night game, something both schools haven’t been willing to do in the past. But the Big Ten has the option of scheduling the night games in September and October and the Michigan-Michigan State game is scheduled for Oct. 7.

Manuel said last month it remains a possibility while in the past, Hollis has not been completely opposed to the idea.

Scheduling in basketball is getting just as much attention these days, and the fact the Big Ten will be playing its conference tournament a week early in 2017-18 in order to have it at Madison Square Garden in New York has created some significant changes.

Two conference games will be played in early December this season to end the regular season in time for the conference tournament. Not only does it make for a busy December for most schools, it creates a week-long break in between the conference tournament and NCAA Tournament.

Deciding what to do in that time will be a tough choice for schools that will play in the postseason, but it’s not the only issue with the schedule that will be discussed. First-year Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski will be pushing for the Boilermakers to be assured two games every season with Indiana, its top rival.

“To have them happen when they happen in the rotation doesn’t seem like we’re putting our best foot forward as a league,” Bobinski told the Lafayette Journal & Courier. “I don’t know if across the league there’s widespread interest among others that have what they believe is a natural rival. If there are, I would be all for that too.”

It’s an issue that has affected the Spartans and Wolverines. They played just once in 2015-16 and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has always supported protected rivalries.

Other issues are sure to come up, but how deeply they’ll be discussed remains to be seen.