While the NCAA has streamlined its rule book, it has opened a new “text” book.
Under guidelines approved at the recent NCAA meeting, the governing organization of college athletics has removed restrictions on text messages and phone calls in the recruiting process.
It could open a can of worms.
Recruits could now be hammered with text messages, particularly if it escalates to cyber oneup-manship for top prospects.
For example, if a blue-chip recruit gets five text-messages a day from Alabama coach Nick Saban, will Auburn coach Guz Malzahn go for six, then LSU’s Les Miles for seven and so on.
It could become a social media tightrope.
“It could put more pressure on the athletes you are recruiting,” said UCA coach Clint Conque. “Kids getting messages at all times of day could prove to be annoying. Getting a bundle of text messages between midnight and 1 a.m. could be irritating. We coaches have to be careful. We have to be careful about overkills.”
Some critics have suggested that since contact using text messaging and almost all social media is impossible to enforce and is unfair in many cases, it’s easier to loosen the reins.
But coaches also realize they have to play in the small phone and pad arena.
“That’s the way so many kids communicate nowadays; they prefer texts rather than phone calls,” said Conque. “In this time of high technology, you have to take advantage of being able to contact kids more frequently. It helps with communication. We’ve had parents call us and ask us to text message their son and we have to tell them that we can’t do that because it was against the rules.”
While enforcement could be questionable, the recruit could be an agent of enforcement or control.
For example, a potential recruit can make it clear to all coaches recruiting him to not try to contact him during school hours (where the use of the Internet and smart phones are restricted at many schools) or late at night or the early hours of the morning. If a coach violates the request, the recruit could tell that school and others that since his request was not honored, trust and credibility becomes a major issue in the process with those coaches.
“I think it should be a mutually shared process and responsibility,” Conque said. “The young people can help set the boundaries and help keep it from getting out of hand.”
And Conque, who tries to strike a balance between old school and new school, also sees benefits in the traditional approach.
“I think the old way of using phone calls and face-to-face conversations help kids develop social skills and helps we coaches to better evaluate the recruit,” he said.
So with the elimination of NCAA restrictions, things will be a-twitter for awhile.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)