“Can you believe that game last night? OMG, it was crazy!!!”
“Fantastic game! You looked great. But will look even better in Husky purple and gold.”
“Good morning! I just wanted to be the first to say that to you. Hope you have a great day. Make it the best.”
“Saw this quote and thought of you: ‘You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.’ ”
“What’d you think of those new uniforms we were wearing? Little fresher than your high school’s uniforms LOL!”
Just about any star high school football player could find these texts on his phone. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, a teenager sends/receives an average of 60 texts per day – up from 50 in a similar study taken in 2009.
“I know there’s a generalization that we are a texting generation,” Bellarmine Prep standout quarterback and Colorado recruit Sefo Liufau said.
But for future college athletes, the NCAA and college coaches may take that to whole new level.
Instead of 60 texts a day, top high school athletes could be sending/receiving 600 texts per day. Sound excessive? Welcome to the world of football recruiting, where excessive is never enough.
On Aug. 1, 2013, Proposal 13-3 – one of 25 submitted by the NCAA Rules Working Committee and later approved by the 18-member panel of college presidents – will go into effect.
It removes all restrictions and limitations on any modes of communication – including text messages – between coaches and prospective student-athletes. So for the 2014 recruiting class (juniors this year), it means college coaches can call or text without limitation.
“I really didn’t want to believe this change would pass,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “Most of the coaches I’ve talked to were not in favor of this and a lot of other things being passed.”
In trying to describe what this will do to the recruiting landscape, Shaw said simply, “It’s going to be the Wild West.”
In the cutthroat world of recruiting, giving coaches no limitations is never a good thing.
“It really is essentially opening up into the Wild West,” said Brandon Huffman, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com. “I think it was a matter of the NCAA saying, ‘We can’t limit it so let’s just not put any rules on it. Let’s just make this a free-for-all so we don’t have to police it.’ ”
Text messages were banned in 2006, stemming from coaches using the tool to woo recruits and recruits without unlimited texting racking up $400 phone bills.
To offset that, coaches have used Facebook messages and Twitter direct messages to communicate daily with recruits.
“I get a ton of Facebook messages,” said Bellevue’s Bishard “Budda” Baker, one of the top junior recruits in the state. “They are constantly messaging me. Sometimes I respond. But a lot of times it gets tiring. I don’t go on there that often, and when I do, there are a ton of messages.”
When told about the new text messaging rules, Baker paused, perhaps thinking about what the coming year will be like with a constantly buzzing cell phone.
“Wow, I didn’t know that,” he said.
Baker has scholarship offers from 30 schools. The prospect of getting texts and calls from all 30 coaching staffs daily could be overwhelming.
Baker had gotten advice from teammate Myles Jack – a UCLA commit – and from his high school coaches.
“Myles told me it was going to be big, but I didn’t know it was going to be this big,” Baker said of the recruiting attention he’d already received. “My coach was telling me it’s going to be crazy once it gets closer.”
Thanks to the new rule, it may get even crazier.
“It’s just another added frustration to the direction we’ve been going,” Lakes High coach Dave Miller said. “It’s only going to get worse. They aren’t thinking about the kids with this rule.”
A year ago, Miller coached Zach Banner, one of the most sought-after offensive line recruits in the country. The thought of Banner’s recruitment having no limits on text messages is mind boggling.
“It was crazy as it was,” Miller said. “Now it’s going to be ridiculous.”
Still, as Liufau points out, there could be some benefits for recruits.
“It could be frustrating and annoying at some points,” he said. “But at the same time, you are trying to figure out where you want to school for the next four years for your college education. There are pros and cons. It could get annoying, but you can also build a good relationship with a coach as well.”
Liufau’s advice to others would be to try to control the situation.
“You are the recruit,” Liufau said. “You and your family know what you want and what you need. You control it. You don’t have to respond. I keep my phone on silent all week and I never text during school. It’s up to the individual.”
But the recruits aren’t the only ones who have to adjust.
“Recruits can dictate the communication,” Huffman said. “But the adults are the ones that need to know that you don’t need to text a kid twice a day to tell him how much you want him, how much you love him, or how much you need him.”
The adults – specifically the coaches – are trying to adjust. Recruiting coordinators such as Dave Emerick at Washington State have to change recruiting strategies and philosophies, depending on what others do.
“You have to keep up,” he said. “If other schools are going to do it 24 hours a day, we almost have no choice but to do the same. We’ll just try to do it in a more personal way.”
In all sports, there is one coach or one staff member willing to do more to get an edge. That’s what led to the text message ban in the first place.
“There are coaches and there are staffs out there that will do everything that’s possibly allowable by the NCAA and then some,” Shaw said. “They are trying to find loopholes and trying to do more, to be that staff or coach that sticks out in a kids mind because they did something fun or interesting or different. It’s a magic show for some of these guys.”
The new rule gives them more license to do so.
“There is no question they will abuse it,” Shaw said. “ Some head coaches are going to have four phones. And they are going to be texting kids, or their assistants or their (graduate assistants) or interns will be texting these kids nonstop.”
The recruiting process isn’t quite as glamorous from the inside.
“People think that kids love all the attention, but really it puts pressure on them,” Miller said. “At first, it’s kind of exciting to have people want you, but by the end, most kids going into hiding.”
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