College / Aug 19, 2011 / 1:00 pm

The New Age Of Recruiting

NCAA

I’ll admit it. The people out there who love Facebook but then chastise you for being on Twitter confuse me. It makes no sense at all. Most of them have never even used Twitter. I constantly hear this: “It’s just a bunch of status updates” when it is so much more. But what this proves is that social media and the way we communicate all changes rapidly, almost too quickly. Sometimes I think about high school kids, and feel I communicate with them easily before realizing I’ve been past that age for a little while. It changes yearly.

Naturally, this is a big topic of interest in recruiting. You have college coaches – normally anywhere from 22 years old to 65 – and then high school teenagers trying to talk to one another. It’s an odd mix, and many of the coaches that I know in the business have some trouble with it. The kids aren’t going to change. The coaches are the ones who have to.

Pete Thamel of The New York Times writes:

Norm Roberts took only one season off after coaching men’s basketball at St. John’s, but when he returned as an assistant at Florida in April, he entered a new era. Roberts could not believe how hard it had become to contact high school prospects by telephone.

“It drove me nuts,” he said. “You’re trying to call kids on the phone to talk, and they don’t want to communicate like that.”

So Roberts reluctantly joined Facebook, which coaches and recruits say accounts for 50 percent of their recruiting interaction. Twitter is second and gaining ground, they say, with its direct-message function offering the bite-size communication preferred by teenagers. Although Luddites remain — the Southern California defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, 71, refers to Facebook as Facemask — most have adapted to the point that Facebook, in-box and Tweet are verbs in the coaching lexicon.

“If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, you may be a step behind,” said Evan Daniels, the national basketball recruiting analyst for scout.com.

The NCAA put a ban on texting a few years ago in an effort to keep down the cost of phone bills for recruits. But when Facebook messages and Twitter direct messages are allowed, it makes no sense. They’re pretty much the same thing. And while phone calls are limited during contact periods, in-boxing and direct messages are not. Thamel reported that top-five junior Nerlens Noel received 15-20 friends requests from coaches on Facebook during the first day they were allowed to contact him.

This shift in recruiting is really noticeable, and some of the coaches I know are constantly making moves, constantly learning new things to keep up with the times and with each generation of kids. It’s an evolving process. It changes every few years, and the NCAA has to begin changing as well. Texting might be allowed again in the future, but even that is just a tiny portion of the big picture.

Any coach who isn’t using social media, or doesn’t completely understand it now, isn’t necessarily losing, but they’re putting themselves at an extreme disadvantage.

Should texting be allowed? Is it weird if college coaches were to hit you up through social media?

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

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  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Ok, I’ll bite – how is Twitter anything different than glorified status updates?