The first high school game of the season won't be played for nearly two months, yet Texas already has 22 football players who have committed to accepting scholarships for the fall of 2011, Stanford has 19 and Ohio State has 17, an example of the kind of accelerated early recruiting decision that worries some college administrators.
"We know we have problems and we haven't had a good way to fix it," said Petrina Long, senior associate athletic director at UCLA.
Long is chairperson of the Division I Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Issues Cabinet, and after hearing complaints from a variety of constituencies, that committee has proposed NCAA legislation to bar early verbal offers of financial aid to students in all sports until July 1 before their senior year.
"It would significantly slow down the process of recruiting," said long-time football assistant Gary Bernardi from San Jose State.
The NCAA has already approved legislation that takes effect this summer prohibiting schools from sending out written offers of scholarships before Aug. 1 of a recruit's senior year.
That will end the practice of schools routinely sending out scholarship offers to junior football players right after the February signing day for seniors.
Helping to motivate the movement to ban early verbal offers were a few well-publicized scholarship offers made to athletes who hadn't even reached high school.
Locally, there was the basketball scholarship offer by then-Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie to Westlake Village Westlake eighth-grader Michael Avery in 2008; and the football scholarship offer by USC Coach Lane Kiffin to 13-year-old Delaware quarterback David Sills earlier this year.
Long said some sports officials have become uncomfortable that scholarship offers are being made to students at "younger and younger ages."
Such verbal offers aren't binding for either side, but advocates say eliminating verbal offers would give coaches more time to evaluate players athletically and academically while also giving students more time to investigate schools.
It also would decrease pressure on athletes and their families to invest heavily in attending college camps each summer in an effort to gain exposure to college recruiters and pick up early offers.
However, Howard Avery, whose son, Michael, is no longer committed to Kentucky after the Wildcats changed coaches, said he doesn't favor the NCAA adding restrictions in the recruiting process.
"I would rather those kinds of decisions be left between the coach and family," he said.
It remains to be seen whether there will be the two-thirds support needed to pass the legislation at the next NCAA meeting, in January at San Antonio.
Long said there is even a split among coaches at UCLA.
"A lot support it and a lot don't," she said.
Trying to enforce a rule banning verbal offers would be difficult, experts say, noting schools and athletes could still reach such an agreement without releasing the information publicly.
"The role of the cabinet is not to have a perfect solution at this time but to frame the discussion for members," Long said. "We've heard from them, and they want us to do something [about it]."