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I think this whole trend has been to satisfy kids.. by TWO
ND fell behind with their policies when coaches like Bob Stoops started handing out offers like they were candy, he (and lots of others) were contacting kids earlier and earlier and making offers. ND couldn't make an offer and couldn't invite them to campus until admissions passed on them and they wouldn't pass on a kid who was a freshman or a sophomore.
Kids ate this up and we found ourselves behind with so many of them who had been in contact with our rivals for a longer period of time and had already been offered by our rivals. They established relationships with the kid/family early, we didn't.
I can't tell you how many times I read recruiting stories where a kid would say that yeah he liked ND but they came in late and he's had a great relationship with coach X and School X for awhile now and he's going with them.
That's why I say this is more driven by the kids/families than it is by the schools. Sure you can try to turn back the clock and go back to 1988 when kids didn't get early offers, and recruiting didn't really get going in ernest till their Jr year. But turning back the clock in anything is usually not a winner. Plus at the same time you seem to be advocating kids get money for their images, be able to have contracts with those who are willing to pay them. In this day and age I don't see how you reconcile a position of turning back the clock on recruiting and letting the kids make money off their images and have contracts with anyone who will pay them.
edit: Next up, coaches respecting a kids verbal and not contacting him once he's given a verbal to a school...that used to be in the gentlemans code for coaches. Till Urban Meyer invented the non-committable offer and also liked it when a kid gave a verbal because that then defined his competition...see Justin Trattou.