According to the official rules of Social Media and Recruiting on the NCAA website, the NCAA does “not allow comments about possible recruits on an institution’s social media page or a page belonging to someone affiliated with the institution”.
Twitter has become one of the more popular recruiting tools in college athletics as of recently and tweeting is permissible as long as coaches are not using it to contact individual prospective student-athletes. Coaches also have to make sure that they are abiding by the recruiting rules; this means that they cannot post about specific results.
Social media is a free service that has turned every person into a reporter and has allowed every tweet or comment to be over-analyzed and shared publicly. The NCAA limits the number of phone calls made to recruits and bans text messaging, but when it comes to social media it is far less regulated. Of course coaches are not allowed to write on Facebook walls or Tweet directly at recruits but they are able to send private messages on Facebook or direct messages via Twitter.
So what good does it do a coach who is thinking about recruiting a player but no decision has been made? Coaches can keep track of who the recruits are friending and following which gives them useful information on who else they are showing interest in.
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA RECRUITING CAN BE FOR THE WORSE.
The use of social media for college football recruiting can be negative however. In January it led to an expulsion of a high school player – Yuri Wright from Don Bosco.
Wright was expelled in January for comments he made on Twitter that were apparently sexually graphic or racist in nature.
Not only did he get expelled from high school, schools like Michigan stopped recruiting him as a result of his tweets.
Wright has committed to playing football with the Colorado Buffaloes and stated that, “Hopefully, other people will learn from what happened to me and make smarter choices. My days with social media are over, I promise. No more Twitter. No more Facebook.”
SO HOW CAN SOCIAL MEDIA RECRUITING STAY POSITIVE?
Many recruits, including Matt Cochran from Buhach High School in California, are using social media in a way that portrays a positive image and gets their name out there. Cochran was able to jump-start recruitment by Facebook messaging numerous coaches across the country with a link to a YouTube video of his highlight reel. Before sending messages his recruitment process was rather slow; after the messages it was anything but that.
Norm Roberts, a coach at St. John’s, reluctantly had to get Facebook last August because he found it nearly impossible to call kids on the phone and have them answer. “They don’t want to communicate like that,” he said.
Coaches and recruits say that 50 percent of their recruiting action comes from Facebook. Twitter is in second and quickly gaining ground, which we have seen as of late. Twitter will soon be number one because of the ability to direct message a player with a note that is short and simple. Evan Daniels, a national basketball recruiting analyst, says, “If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, you may be a step behind.”
Social media can also stay positive through social media monitoring. One leader in this market is Varsity Monitor. Varsity Monitor monitors the activity of student-athletes on social networking websites by looking for key words or inappropriate material on their personal accounts and then reporting that content. They do social media account monitoring and web monitoring along with sharing social media guidelines and educating their clients.
When and if an athlete posts something inappropriate both the administrators and coaches will be notified by the compliance office. There are also notifications sent when 3rd party users mention athletes. In the past, schools would make fake accounts and send friend requests to secretly find out information. Not only does this use of monitoring benefit the athlete in college but it prepares them for post-college when they will need to be monitoring their own social media use to land a job.
The work done by Varsity Monitor is going to be something that other colleges will want to start utilizing in the very near future, if they don’t already take part. Just a few of their current clients are the University of North Carolina, Nebraska Huskers, Texas Longhorns, and Villanova.
WHY HAS SOCIAL MEDIA RECRUITING BEEN SUCH A TAKE-OFF?
It has partly come from the fact that the NCAA barred coaches from text-messaging athletes back in 2007. The increasing use of social media is symbolic of communication trends for this generation. Voice mails are considered annoying, e-mails are out-of-date, and phone conversations are just awkward.
Phone calls to recruits are limited to once a month for juniors and twice a week for seniors while Facebook and Twitter communication is unlimited during contact periods. Many players receive Facebook and Twitter notifications on their cell phones which is similar to receiving a text message, except this is legal.
WHAT ARE RECRUITS AND COACHES SAYING ABOUT THIS NEW TREND?
“Almost every recruit is on Twitter and Facebook. It’s a good way to get in touch with recruits.”
-Keon Hatcher | Arkansas wide receiver commit
“Social media is a huge part of our culture. It’s the way most people communicate.”
-Bill O’Brien | Penn State football coach
“It’s not a hassle, where they call you and you have to be on the phone for a long time. It’s just like a message. It’s a great way to contact me.”
-Narlens Noel |one of the top five basketball prospects nationally for a junior
“It’s probably the only way to communicate with recruits.”
-Dana Holgorsen | West Virginia football coach
*This article may also be found on The Field Blog.