Up until now, college coaches from all sports have been forbidden from sending messages to recruits via text, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. They’ve also been limited to how many phone calls they make to recruits.
That’s now changed—at least for Division I men’s basketball coaches.
Coaches from that sport can now send unlimited texts and place unlimited phone calls to recruits who have completed their sophomore year of high school.
WKU athletic director Todd Stewart says he’s not surprised the NCAA is modifying the rules. He says texting and social media messaging are so widespread these days it’s impossible to think a governing body could somehow keep track of which school was sending messages to which recruit.
“I think it took a lot of time for the NCAA to monitor that and the feedback I received was that their resources would be better devoted elsewhere, rather than trying to monitor how many texts somebody did or did not send," said Stewart.
For now, at least, the rule changes only affect men’s basketball recruits. But it’s likely that the new provisions will eventually be granted to all NCAA sports, including women’s basketball, football, and baseball.
The new NCAA rules on texting add another wrinkle to an already intricate recruiting process for college basketball players.
That process usually starts with coaches identifying prospects after seeing players perform for their high school teams--and in the case of elite players—summer traveling squads.
Coaching staffs will then send letters to recruits. If the high-schooler is interested, he might respond to that school, and then communicate over the phone with the coaching staff. If the player likes what he hears, he could take an official visit to the school, tour the campus and facilities, and meet the coaches face-to-face.
Now, basketball coaches have to consider who they text, and how many messages they send.
“For example, if we’re recruiting you, I guarantee you somebody is calling or texting you probably every day," said WKU men's basketball coach Ray Harper. "Is that going to be an impact on where you go to school? That’s our job to find out. When is enough, enough? What we’re trying to do right now is let parents and kids know that if they don’t want to talk this much, let us know. What’s a good balance for you?”
Coach Harper says he especially appreciates the fact he can now make unlimited phone calls to recruits. For example, if a high school junior or senior WKU is recruiting plays in a big game Friday night, Coach Harper or a member of his staff can call that recruit to talk about the game without worrying if they’ve gone over the maximum number of calls they can make in a week.
Harper’s boss, WKU athletic director Todd Stewart, says he trusts his basketball coaches to strike the right balance now that they have new communication tools at their disposal.
“I actually heard two different coaches comment on this, and it was interesting,"said Stewart. "One said that what he’s hearing is that some programs will assign a manager to a coach’s cell phone, and that manager will do nothing but text recruits non-stop. The coaches themselves won’t be doing the texting. The person receiving them won’t know that, but you’ll have managers being relentless in terms of sending out texts to all kinds of people.”
Someone who knows the college recruiting process well is Scooter Hollis. He played quarterback for Bowling Green High School, leading them to last year’s Kentucky 5A championship. He also graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and is playing this fall for Colombia University in New York City.
Hollis has this advice for coaches recruiting high school athletes: don’t try to get to know a player through texting. Save the texts until after you’ve met the recruit face-to-face and talked to him over the phone. Still, Hollis says texting will come in handy for both players and coaches.
“I see it as a very useful way of communication, simply because not everybody has enough time to talk. You might catch somebody at a bad time when you call them, and then you end up playing phone-tag. But with a text message, it allows you to get what you need to get out, and it also allows the person you’re texting to respond whenever they’re available," said Hollis.
The future Ivy Leaguer believes it will be important for coaches to find a way to let a player know the coaching staff is interested in him, while giving that recruit room to breathe.
Besides, says Hollis--high school athletes are still kids. They should enjoy their last two years of high school without being inundated with texts from college coaches.