The new NCAA football rule allows coaches to promote their recruits on Twitter.
At midnight Monday, Aug. 1, college recruiting underwent a big change.
On the surface, it doesn’t look like much: coaches and athletic programs on Twitter are now allowed to “like” and “retweet” posts on their recruits’ feeds.
But, these days, when you have high-profile recruits announcing their commitments with viral videos, ceremonies and other over-the-top methods, it’s clear social media will play a vital role in many athletes’ decisions to pick one school over others.
Coaches still aren’t allowed to tweet directly at players, but they’re allowed to “subtweet” them, meaning they can talk about them in nearly every way but by name. Should a player tweet about a school, an offer or a commitment, there’s now nothing to stop coaches from promoting this on their own feeds.
The good news in all of this is that, for many kids, this is going to be as important as face time, phone calls and letters have been in the past. The number one goal for nearly every athlete I’ve talked to is to feel comfortable with a program, to feel welcomed as family, before committing. This rule change, as weird as it may sound, may influence athletes from the class of 2017 and beyond to pick schools based on how many likes they get on Twitter.
In fact, I believe it’s a matter of “when,” not “if.”
The bad news is that this rule change also exposes athletes to the problems of “College Sports Twitter.” It won’t change the fact that some programs give socially irresponsible coaches too long of a leash, which leads to bad subtweeting, which leads to recruiting classes jumping ship to find smoother seas. But, with college coaches now directly able to promote their recruits, it just got a whole lot easier for people to find these kids.
And the problem there is that college sports fans — especially in football — have a tendency to act like insane people on the internet. There exists a large number of fans who don’t see any problem in tracking down a school’s recruits on Twitter and communicating with them, as if they play any kind of role in a program’s own recruiting efforts. I have friends who do this with their SEC schools’ recruits, and they actually think it helps. It’s crazy.
It all seems like good fun when the people are praising you, doing whatever they can to get you locked in at Wherever University’s program. But when you de-commit and you don’t have the luxury of an emotionally stunted Texas A&M football coach to blame, people can and will get nastier than any given battle in the football trenches.
Let’s say you’re choosing between two schools and both coaches are doing all they can to boost you up on Twitter. I can promise you, especially if you’re going to a large program, that crazy fans will get in Twitter fights and find a way to blow up your “mentions.” It’ll give you a headache once you see how catty grown men can get with each other over college sports.
Ultimately, I have no control over what high school athletes should and shouldn’t post on their social media accounts. I’m just here to make suggestions. And for all of Plant City’s athletes, I suggest getting comfortable with the idea of using the “block” and “mute” buttons if your recruitment process gets a lot of online traction, but you’re not totally sold on the school.
Or, you could protect your accounts and filter out the people you don’t want to hear from. If you’re not trying to be the next big Vine or Instagram star, all that social media attention doesn’t mean as much as you think.
Contact Justin Kline at firstname.lastname@example.org.