Social media has led to a communication overload in college football recruiting
Under Armour Week: Recruiting Rule Changes
When Ray McCartney started coaching college football, there were phone calls, handwritten notes and visits crisscrossing the country to find recruits. Three options and done.
Recruiting has taken a long, digital trip for everyone involved -- high school and college coaches, the media covering college football and all the way down to the recruits. As the NCAA has continually tweaked its legislation of what is legal and not legal -- often far from the latest innovation -- lines of communication have shifted.
"I never thought I'd be a 54-year-old man and I'd be tweeting and Facebooking every night, seven days a week," said McCartney, the recruiting coordinator at Wake Forest since 2001. "Getting on airplanes, getting off airplanes, getting in rental cars, shuttle buses, whatever, I'm tweeting.
"The single biggest decision I have to make in recruiting right now is, 'Is the kid a tweeter or is he a Facebooker?' It's usually one or the other. I never in a million years thought it was the thing I needed to determine pretty quickly."
Welcome to the new state of recruitment, for now. New rules will change recruiting again Aug. 1, when unlimited phone calls and text messages to the Class of 2014 are allowed. These are the last vestiges of some restrictions in the recruiting world.
For good and bad.
The increase in communication options combined with the proliferation of interest in college football players before they are actual college football players has led to more attention than ever paid to recruiting. From all parties, it leads to wonder if all of this is too much.
The constant communication with everyone has led to recruits being able to make more informed decisions and better relationships. The Twitter and Facebook life can also have its drawbacks. When a player decommits -- such as Kyle Kalis with Ohio State last season or this season with David Dawson (Detroit/Cass Tech) and Michigan, where he eventually re-committed -- the social media backlash from fans became intense.
To handle the entire process, some recruits made interesting -- and savvy -- decisions when it came to handling how to deal with all the attention. Dan Samuelson (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth), a Michigan offensive line commit who at points in his recruitment had chosen Pittsburgh and Nebraska, created a second Facebook profile solely for college coaches.
"I had a personal one, and coaches kept trying to add me on that Facebook, and I didn't want a lot of people knowing what I was doing, so I created a whole separate one," Samuelson said. "Had my highlights on there and all my profiles. All sorts of coaches sent messages all the time, and it worked very well for what I wanted to do."
Creating his own conduit of contact, Samuelson separated his recruiting life from everything else. It turned Facebook into an effective marketing tool, whether that was intended or not. Recruits and parents are cutting highlight tapes, creating promotional websites and marketing teenagers, aiming for a free education leading to a potential shot at playing football for money in the future.
It's a long way from high school coaches packaging DVDs and dropping them in the mail to coaches across the country. Now everything can be dropped on Hudl -- a website to put game film and playbooks on the Web -- eliminating a lot of the disc and paper world.
This has led to players continuing to create highlight tapes at younger ages, accelerating the process. Just part of the recruiting world today.
"I think it's a little over the top, myself, and I'd like to see it curtailed a little bit," said Mike Scanlan, the longtime coach at Minnesota power Cretin-Derham Hall. "The individual marketing that the kids and families do, I can't begrudge them, but it's unbelievable."
The added attention has led to earlier commitments. In this cycle, 85 of the ESPN Top 150 committed to a school before playing a game in their senior seasons and have stuck with their decisions -- so far.
This comes due to more unofficial visits and the influx of information available to recruits and coaches. It also has led to recruits wanting to end the process as soon as they feel comfortable with a decision. That helps alleviate pressure and some attention so they can return to their normal teenage life.
"It varies from athlete to athlete, but it has kind of gotten to the point where it's almost too much," said ESPN 150 linebacker Isaac Rochell (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy), who chose Notre Dame in June. "Some athletes can handle the pressure, and some can't. I didn't feel pressure too much, so I don't know."
Rochell solved any potential pressure issues by adhering to a policy of honesty. If he wasn't interested, he communicated that and explained why. It saved his time and that of the coaches.
Not every recruit does. When a player starts to receive a ton of attention at once, it can become daunting.
"I had a period of all these schools offering and it got so confusing," said Ben Boulware (Anderson, S.C./T.L. Hanna), a Clemson commit. "That's why I committed so early. I was tired of all that stuff blowing up."
It didn't hurt that Boulware wanted to go to Clemson since he was a kid and that his brother, Garrett, plays baseball for the Tigers.
But the constant communication can put a strain on everyone -- high school coaches juggling the consistent visits and phone calls from their college counterparts, college coaches interrupting dinner and vacations to message with prospects, and the recruits at the center of it all. It turns into a tricky balancing act.
"I really enjoy recruiting," Stanford recruiting coordinator Mike Sanford said. "I never want to be a guy that is completely overbearing in any form of communication. I think that can get overwhelming for kids.
"They've told us that before, like, 'Hey, Coach, it wears me out.' That just doesn't work."
Stories like that are all just part of finding the new balance in the ever-changing world of college football recruiting.
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