September 18th, 2014

NCAA RECRUITING: RISE OF THE DESIGNATED TEXTER

by WillyDaunic

Technology affects us in all facets of life.  It’s interesting to look back on how things have evolved, and how they would have been different had the technology been what it is today.  The world of recruiting is no exception. Vanderbilt Football Coach James Franklin commented on Sportsnight yesterday that “NCAA rules cannot keep up with the technology” Listen to it here.

The context of this discussion is the NCAA’s decision to allow college coaches to freely recruit players without limits on texting, tweeting, and other various methods of social media.  It’s created quite the stir, but it has consequences.  Read here.

They are doing it because A) As SEC Commish Mike Slive has preached, it’s time to “stop sweating the small stuff” and B) The technology is always changing so the NCAA can’t keep up anyway.  I often wonder how the current rules would have affected my recruiting process back in the dinosaur days... 

It’s October of 1988 in Maitland, Florida.  I’m sitting down to watch MY team, The New York Mets, in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers.  It’s a classic pitcher’s matchup: the ultra-talented Dwight Gooden for the Mets against Orel Hershiser, who ended the season by firing a record 59 consecutive scoreless innings for LA.  It’s my senior year of High School, and I’m pumped.  Homework? It will have to wait.

The phone rings (no cell phones back then. No email. No internet.).  It’s a Division I basketball coach who would like to speak to me about a scholarship offer.  I have been going through the recruiting process for a while now, so this is not a shock.   Signing day is just a couple weeks away and I’m hoping that C.M. Newton is going to offer me a scholarship to Vanderbilt- but I’m not sure it’s going to happen (Of course it eventually did—which is why you’re stuck with me here).

In the meantime I’m keeping my options open, having made my “list” (I wonder if 24/7 would have at all been interested in that list).  The coach who’s just called isn’t on it.  It’s a school not far from me with (at the time) a dismal program.  The coach doesn’t look like he’s going to make it (he didn’t).  If it were today, I could have screened the call and just let it ring.  But back then we didn’t even have an answering machine yet – so when you got a call to the house back then you didn’t know if it was going to be:

a)    My grandmother

b)   C.M Newton

c)    Heather Locklear (it was never C)

But I wasn’t going to be rude (and I could always hope it was Heather) so I take the call.   I’m on a phone in the kitchen-which has a spiral cord (remember those?).  It extends out about 6 feet or so, just enough to see the TV, but from a horrible angle.

 The coach begins his pitch over the phone.  It’s brutal.  He’s rambling on and on about how the program is going to turn around, blah, blah,blah.  But he’s not asking me anything.  He just keeps going (In one sense this is good because I can tune him out and follow the game-which is turning into a classic pitchers duel).   It has to be the most ineffective sales job I’ve ever heard. I cannot tell you one thing he said during the “conversation”, nor can I recall anything I may have said to him.  I just know he killed my evening.  I must have missed 3 or 4 innings of the game (no TiVo)--which the Mets won in dramatic fashion with a 9th inning comeback (Sidebar: the Mets actually won two games in the series that Hershiser started, but nobody remembers because of his & Kirk Gibson’s heroics later in the series- and in the World Series against the A’s).  The Dodgers won in 7 games—here are some bitter memories from that nightmare:

 

 

THE POINT

Technology has affected the rules and methods of recruiting, and the NCAA can’t keep up.   Now that coaches have no limits on texting, they truly will go wild.  Coach Franklin even envisions some staffs assigning a member or two to basically sit around and text recruits all day every day.  You’ve heard of the DH? Now we will have the DT (designated texter).  Some players will eat that up (read the anecdote in Henricksen’s column above in which the player checks his cell phone while he walks from one end of the court to the other after being fouled during an AAU game. Really.)

But despite valid concerns from coaches, hopefully the essence of recruiting will stay the same.   The savvy coaches with good communication skills will know the right amount of times to text and not drive families crazy. These coaches should stand out.   I would hope in turn that most players would not simply equate the number of texts with the level of interest (though I am a little worried about that).   Players are going to have to set the boundaries on how much they want to be communicated with (which isn’t easy).   I probably should have set a better boundary back on that night in ’88.  If only that could have been a text instead of a call, I could have watched my Mets in peace.   Of course, had it been Heather Locklear who called that night, I would have blown off Dwight Gooden in a New York Minute.

Photo Credit: Dave Krupinski

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