I write this piece amidst of a changing tide when it comes to social media and recruiting. Websites like Facebook and Twitter have become important recruiting tools, as commits attempt to persuade other athletes across the nation to come to their schools. From the outside looking in, one can see the successes and opportunities this new way of recruiting may bring. But, if you delve deeper into the depths and peel back the layers. It may not seem so rosy.
With the ease of interaction amongst recruits, it also brings fans closer to their teams, including high school students being recruited by said team. With a flurry of characters and a click of the mouse, messages can be sent to recruits in attempts to persuade this athlete to join their university. Though this idea may seem harmless to some, err on the side of caution.
It has been well publicized that a highly touted Ohio State linebacker commit unknowingly had interaction with a convicted sex offender (who was a Buckeye fan). The offender, Charles Eric Waugh, took to Twitter daily to tweet inspirational quotes to Buckeye targets, commits and current/former players. This eventually lead to interactions in person with recruits (who are usually minors).
As fans, we can all take something away from this situation. Realize that these “kids” we tweet to are usually minors (anywhere from 16-18), and interactions with commits, unless in a supervised setting, could lead to a PR disaster for your school just like Ohio State has to deal with right now. The NCAA can’t regulate everyone that tweets to recruits, or who meets them in person. It is up to the fan base to be rational and self-regulate themselves.
The NCAA does recognize Tweeting to recruits as a secondary violation. But, it’s impossible to regulate. I’m not here to spread the word of “right and wrong”. I’m trying to make it clear that fans must self-regulate themselves before you do or say something you might regret. Too many times messages such as “I hope you tear your ACL”, or “I hope you fail” are spread to recruits that didn’t choose their school. Though this doesn’t have a direct reflection on a fan base, it’s a situation that doesn’t have to occur if one would simply step away from the keyboard.
There are obvious reasons why our favorite schools have assembled a coaching staff. To coach the players, and to recruit the players they want for the program. Some fans realize this and some don’t. Some take to Twitter and emulate they are the coaching staff and try to recruit themselves. Though the love for your university shows, I applaud and commend you for such undying loyalty. But, nine times out of ten (and it’s a VERY rare 1 tenth of a percent) recruits won’t listen to fans and will decide on their own. Coaches work very long hours and work very hard to scour the country looking for student athletes that would fit their program. In the case of Ohio State, though incredibly rare and unfortunate, the progress made with their recruit was lost due to the actions of one fan. Even though the circumstances are extreme, don’t be that fan.
Is it impermissible to have a harmless Twitter conversation with a recruit? Absolutely not. Should it ever be escalated to the next level? No! Leave interactions face-to-face with the coaches, and take care of being proud fans. No one is stopping you from talking about how great your university is. Just show some moderation and control in your comments.
The NCAA can’t stop fan interaction on social media, there’s too much ground lost every day that the NCAA cannot keep up. The fans are all that are left. The key to winning is great sportsmanship and class. Interactions with recruits doesn’t have to be as complicated as most make it out to be, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.