Here's how important national letters of intent are in the recruiting process: you can't just sign one whenever you want.
The NCAA has specific time periods in place for inking such important agreements. They vary by sport, and there are a lot of sports. So it's easy for recruits to commit to a school but really have no idea when they're supposed to sign their letter of intent to make it official.
Here is a breakdown of when national letters of intent are signed for athletes wanting to earn a scholarship for the 2009-10 school year, according to the NCAA website:
Basketball (regular period): April 15-May 20, 2009
Football (mid-year junior college transfers): Dec. 17, 2008-Jan. 15, 2009
Football (regular period): Feb. 4-April 1, 2009
All Other Sports (early period): Nov. 12-19, 2008
All Other Sports (regular period): April 8-Aug. 1, 2009
The coaches of most sports seemed satisfied with the calendar in place, but there are discussions of implementing an early-signing period for high school football recruits. In recent years, football prospects have committed, decommitted, recommitted, decommitted and committed elsewhere, filling all the time they have to make a decision before February.
One Division I coach told me he uses 25 percent of his recruiting budget "babysitting" recruits, or visiting recruits who have already committed to make sure they don't stray.
Nothing is imminent, though, so the dates in place will be a good forecast of years to come.
The Brandon (Florida) High School wrestling team's national record of 459 consecutive victoriesthe longest record held by any high school team in any sport and spanning nearly 34 yearshas been broken. South Dade High School recently defeated Brandon, 32-28.
The tournament Brandon was participating in when they lost was by far the sternest challenge to their streak and was even titled the Jim Graves "Beat the Streak" Tournament. Seven of the opposing starters had placed in the state competition and had a crowd cheering, Beat the streak! behind them. Also, the top-four teamsBrandon being the top-ranked teamin Florida were competing.
While South Dade handed Brandon its first defeat since 1973, Brandon is quick to look to the future. The squad is poised to forget the loss and quickly refocus on building another impressive streak by focusing on advice from upperclassman Kevin Timothy: "Next year we start back at one."
Do you think any team in any high school sport will ever top Brandons streak?
Last weekend marked the 35th anniversary of Title IX, the legislation credited with increasing gender equity in sports. According to the Women���s Sports Foundation, since its enactment in 1972, female athletic participation has increased by a staggering 904 percent in high school and by 456 percent in college.
As someone who has benefited from Title IX, softball star Jennie Finch is quick to share her appreciation for those women that came before her. "I'm truly grateful for people who have paved the way, and have fought the fight," Finch said in the Daily Freeman. "I'm happy they broke down barriers to give women like myself the opportunity to be successful athletes and make a living playing a sport that I love."
I���m no softball star, but I am also thankful for the positive influence of Title IX in my life and the opportunity to play ball in college. Here are some other women who have enjoyed the effects of Title IX and are part of my favorite moments in sports history:
1996 | New Women's Olympic Sports. Women's softball and soccer made their Olympic debut at the Summer Games in Atlanta, and the U.S. dominated, winning the gold in both sports, as well as in basketball, gymnastics and synchronized swimming. The Atlanta Games made stars of Lisa Leslie, Mia Hamm and Lisa Fernandez, giving rise to professional softball and soccer leagues for women in the U.S.
1999 | Women's World Cup. A billion TV viewers and a stadium crowd of 90,000 witness the celebration as the U.S. wins the Women's World Cup in an overtime shoot-out against China. Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey after scoring the winning goal, giving little girls someone besides a model to look at for a strong, beautiful body. And for the first time, a women's soccer team got as much attention a men's squad usually does.
2007 | Equal Pay at Wimbledon. After 123 years of awarding more prize money to men than women, Wimbledon yielded to public pressure and announced on Feb. 22, that it will offer equal pay through all rounds at this year's tournament.
2006 | Winningest Coach in NCAA History. Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball historymale or femaleearned her 900th career win as the Tennessee Lady Vols beat Vanderbilt, 80-68. That year, Summitt signed a $1.125 million deal for the 2006-07 season, making her the first women's basketball coach in history to be paid a million dollars or more.
2003 | Annika Plays a PGA Tour Event. Annika Sorenstam became the first woman since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945 to compete in a PGA Tour event. Sorenstam missed the cut at the Colonialin Fort Worth, Texasby four strokes, but walked off the course to a standing ovation.
1997 | The WNBA is Born. The WNBA kicked off its inaugural season with eight teams, but unlike the other women's pro basketball leagues before it, this one has enjoyed longevity, this year celebrating its 10th year of existence.
2001 | Increased Exposure for the Women's Tournament. The NCAA and ESPN announced an 11-year agreement for the cable outlet to televise every game of the women's national championship basketball tournament.
According to Sports Illustrated, flag football is the fastest growing girls' high school sport in Florida. That���s incredible. I didn���t even know that flag football was a sanctioned high school sport in any state. Florida is one of only two states, along with Alaska, in which it is played at that level.
Sports Illustrated reported that in 1998, the first year Florida began tracking flag football participation, 17 schools fielded girls' teams. Five years later the Florida High School Athletic Association recognized flag football as an interscholastic sport and began holding a state championship; now more than 4,000 girls at 146 schools participate.
Flag football is, indeed, growing rapidly. So much so that it may be thinning the field of athletes for traditional spring sports such as softball and track. Now if I could relive my high school years, I would never choose to play flag football over softball. Ever. But I can understand how the girls��� track team would be susceptible to losing the most athletes to flag football. I would much rather run a fly pattern and catch a football than run open 400s all day.
All right folks, it���s the end of the road for the metal-versus-wood bat debate in New York City. According to The Associated Press, metal bats will be banned in high school baseball starting in September after the City Council on Monday overrode a mayoral veto of the bill, 41-4. This decision subscribes to the theory that metal bats produce harder and faster hits, risking serious injury to young players due to less reaction time.
Opponents cite an American Legion Baseball study from 2005 that found no substantial scientific proof to support the argument that wooden bats are safer than metal bats.
I know this is stirring up a lot of discussion in baseball across the country. I can���t make myself believe that a baseball reacts the same off a wooden bat as it does off of a metal one. Perhaps a different study would produce varying results. But even if it didn���t ��� what���s the harm in changing over to wood bats all the way up? It is how the game was originally played. It has a pure quality about it. If it does happen to be safer for youth athletes, it���s a win-win situation.
Do you think the issue should be left up to those who run the youth leagues or that the New York City government made the right move?
The American Heritage Dictionary defines sport as, ���Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.��� I realize cheerleading isn���t as fast-paced as basketball or hard-hitting as football, but I do contend that it falls within the definition of what constitutes a sport.
If more states recognized cheerleading as a high school sport, perhaps they would receive more funding, better-trained coaches, and the resources squads need to become more competitive.
With a publicity boost from Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst introduced a state Senate bill last week to require random steroid testing for Texas public school athletes. The bill would require public school athletes to agree not to take steroids and to submit to testing if randomly selected.
Lawmakers hope to test as many as 22,000 students per year or more. Texas has about 733,000 students in approximately 1,300 high schools. Testing would be conducted at 30 percent, about 390, of the schools. The program could start as early as next fall.
Studies have shown as many 1 million high school students nationwide have taken steroids and as many as 40,000 in Texas, Dewhurst said. Steroids can lead to dramatic mood swings, heart disease and cancer, among other complications.
If approved, the bill leaves most of the testing details, such as which schools are selected, how and when samples are collected and punishment for positive results, to the University Interscholastic League, the state's governing body for high school sports. Dewhurst, however, said punishments for positive tests should include a ban from playing in sports.
The program wouldn't be the first of its kind nationally, but it would be the largest. New Jersey started a limited program last fall that tests athletes and teams that advance to the postseason.
Do you support steroid testing in high school sports?
(Photo provided by Getty Images/taken by Doug Benc)
Teenagers brawled in the stands at a high school basketball game at Madison Square Garden last night before police cracked down on the crowd, which spilled into the streets. Gunfire was heard as the crowd went from the arena to Times Square, police said. No injuries were reported. Twenty-one people, mostly teenagers, were arrested, police said.
From brawls on basketball courts to out of control parents at Little League games and wrestling matches, unsportsmanlike behavior can be a problem.
Now, some high school sporting officials in Washington state are considering tough new rules ��� including a ban on booing. Those who support the ban say that too often, spectators are cruel.
"It's the organized effort to try to intimidate or try to make fun of someone that becomes personal in nature that can escalate then into other concerns that we might have," said Mike Colbrese, executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
Colbrese and his colleagues said they have trouble hiring coaches and referees because of the abuse they take. By banning booing from the stands, they believe they can create a more welcoming environment on the court and field. Experts agree that behavior at school sports events is not what it used to be. "Parents are more intense, family members are more intense, siblings are more intense," said Christine Brennan, a USA Today sports columnist. "Everything is ratcheted up."
The Interscholastic Association claims it just wants to reinforce good sportsmanship. However, some fans aren���t pleased that their right to boo might be taken away. For instance, one woman told ABC News, "The crowd should be able to say what they want to say. They pay their money. They should be able to boo if they want to.���
Do you think booing should be banned?
(Photo provided by Getty Images/taken by Nick Laham)
[http://active.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/57579794.jpg] I just read a story about the recruiting trail for Washington State University's basketball program -- they are already focusing on 2010. Patrick Simon, a freshman in high school, committed to play basketball at Washington State University despite the fact that he's only in the middle of his first season of prep basketball. The Cougars on Monday made a scholarship offer to the 6-foot-7 Simon, who is only 14 and won't play there until the next decade.
Simon leads his team in scoring and rebounding and orally accepted the offer. No one from the Washington State basketball program can comment on Simon's commitment until he signs a letter of intent, which would happen in fall 2009 at the earliest.
I know an oral commitment doesn���t mean a whole lot until he signs a letter of intent more than two years from now, but it still seems a little rushed. Isn���t this a little too young to make such a huge life decision? He���s only 14!
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Jeff Gross)
A new rule that says players must be at least one year removed from high school before entering the NBA is "the worst thing that's happened to college basketball since I've been coaching," says Texas Tech coach Bob Knight. Instituted last year by the NBA, the rule means exceptionally talented players must wait at least a year rather than jumping to the pros from high school.
Many coaches have said the rule helps the college game, because it lets schools showcase the players for at least one season and improve their program. But Knight, the winningest NCAA men's coach of all time (886 victories), explained why he dislikes the rule.
Nicole Woody was recently featured as a stand out high school athlete as read in Sports Illustrated: She is one of the top female wrestlers in the U.S. and still encounters people who think the mat is no place for a woman.
Reportedly, some schools forfeit rather than send a boy to face her, and one fellow wrestler transferred rather than be on her team. But Woody, a graduating junior and team captain, also hears plenty of encouragement. Several girls from states across the country have reached out to her online telling of how they have been inspired to start wrestling.
It's a choice more girls are making. At U.S. high schools the number of female wrestlers has tripled in the last decade, from 1,629 to 4,975. (There are 50 times as many boy wrestlers.) Woody's coach, Bill Royer, says, "It's not a girl-boy thing. She's a wrestler. She lives and dies and bleeds this sport."
Woody began wrestling at age nine at the suggestion of her mother, Mary, who liked the discipline it taught her son. In August, Woody was the only American of either sex to win a title at the Junior World Championships. Her ultimate goal is the Olympics, which added women's wrestling in 2004. Good luck to her!
Thirty girls signed up for the cheerleading squad this winter at Whitney Point High School in upstate New York. But upon learning they would be waving their pompoms for the girls��� basketball team as well as the boys���, more than half of the aspiring cheerleaders dropped out.
The eight remaining cheerleaders now adjust their routines for whichever team is playing here on the home court to comply with a new ruling from federal education officials interpreting Title IX, the law intended to guarantee gender equality in student sports.
In Ottawa, Kansas there is a running back who has rushed for 1,000 yards on the football field this season. That's impressive. But wait, there's more -- he's also legally blind and has a debilitating disease known as sickle cell anemia.
Darius Johnson's uncle, Darnell, told The Kansas City Channel, "He can only see clearly two feet in front of his face. Everything else, he makes up for in some kind of way." Despite all that, Johnson has become a star football player for his Kansas high school team and was recently awarded a trophy and personalized jersey by the Derrick Johnson Third and Long Foundation.
Do you know of any special athletes who overcame great odds to excel? If so, in what way did they overcome their unique situation?
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Andy Lyons)
New Jersey high school teams that make it to state championship games are now subject to steroid testing. The New Jersey governor signed an order today that requires random testing. If an athlete test positive once, they're out.