DESTIN, Fl. — College football’s early signing period is coming soon. The SEC coaches still have questions about how the change to the recruiting calendar could trickle down to affect other times of the year.

The early signing period will begin Dec. 20 this year. That will move things along considerably from previous years, when the signing period for high school recruits began on the first Wednesday in February.

“The fear is that this will become the signing date,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Now everything revolves around December 20th, 22nd, whenever it is. Then everybody will want to take an official visit during the season, which is not the best time to take official visits. Or now we have to change the recruiting calendar and have April, May and June, which we’re considering now to have official visits.”

Saban also voiced concerns about having to make evaluations and projections on recruits earlier and earlier, dating back to their sophomore year in high school. That could prevent some players who post strong senior seasons from gaining attention during the recruiting process, because signing classes will already be close to filling up.

It’s not just an athletic projection coaches will have to make. They’ll also have to make a judgment call on whether players will qualify academically even earlier in the process, with less information on hand.

“It’s going to be difficult for us to do that projection, sign a kid on Dec. 20 and guarantee he’s going to get into the University of Florida,” Jim McElwain said.

South Carolina’s Will Muschamp said the rule also puts high school coaches in a difficult position.

“You have guys getting ready for spring practice their junior year and you’ve got a young man taking a visit on a college campus during the week and he hasn’t finished six semesters of high school so academically where exactly is he?” Muschamp said. “I don’t think it’s very smart.”

Auburn to the East?

Any chatter about the possibility of realigning the divisions and moving Auburn to the SEC East was quickly shot down by commissioner Greg Sankey. It’s not a major topic among the league coaches and administrators.

“I really only address that in these conversations,” Sankey told the media. “Is that an agenda item? No. You talk about it in press conferences regularly. There’s almost this cycle now, every two years where I can predict what will begin happening on May 1st: the national membership conversation, then somebody at some point will talk about divisional alignment. I think the next question is probably about a nine-game conference schedule. None of which are on our agenda.”

Alcohol sales not expected soon

Another conversation topic quickly dismissed by Sankey was the sale of alcohol in general seating areas at SEC stadiums. Reports earlier this spring indicated that LSU was working to add a beer garden at its football stadium, though that would be a confined area.

“It’s not an agenda item but I expect a conversation,” he said. “We’ve had some discussions, really talking about why we have this policy in place. I don’t think there’s a majority that thinks we just pull away. But there’s also an attentiveness to cultural changes and maybe different interests that will provoke the conversation and see where that heads. I don’t expect any destination this week on that particular issue.”

The SEC does not permit the sale of alcoholic beverages in public areas of its venues, though that rule does not apply to private, leased areas such as luxury boxes. Other specially designated areas are also exempt from the ban, like Alabama baseball’s student section in right field at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Reach Ben Jones at or 205-722-0196.