January 25, 2011
Recruiting is a whole new monster in this social-media era. Now, fans don't just scour recruiting Web sites or blogs for information on potential new-additions to their football or basketball teams. They also make sure to check out recruits up-close-and-personal.
Facebook, (the ghost of) MySpace, Twitter... these sites are turning fans back into fanatics.
A Rivals colleague, Aaron Dickens from RedRaiderSports.com, linked to an article via Twitter. He gave some sound advice:
"If you're one of those fans that posts on recruits' Facebook walls and sends them messages -- stop."
The article in question details the decision of C.J. Johnson, a five-star linebacker who switched his commitment from Mississippi State to Ole Miss after the departure of D.C. Manny Diaz to Texas. A big reason for his change, according to a Facebook post, was the constant online pestering by a Mississippi State fan.
It reminded me of the situation shortly after Sheldon Richardson switched his commitment from Missouri to USC. Tiger fans swarmed Richardson's Facebook page, calling the recruit all sorts of names.
Embarrassing doesn't even sum it up adequately. Richardson responded back to a few posters, saying fans like that are why he'd never be a Missouri Tiger.
(Obviously, that changed.)
That's not even the worst that can happen, however, as anyone who donates money to a university cannot come into contact with recruits -- even via social media.
Here's my advice for fans:
1. There's nothing wrong with eavesdropping, but just make your presence unknown.
If you want to be a "creeper" and check out recruits' profiles, that's fine. If they have an open profile, or accept your friend request, by all means, go ahead. But do it QUIETLY. Don't send messages. Don't post on walls. Even the most innocent post ("Congrats on the All-State selection!") should be avoided, unless you have a prior relationship with a recruit.
The blame isn't solely on fans, however. Many recruits enjoy the attention they receive at first -- especially the high-level ones. But, here's my only piece of advice for any prospect on the verge of landing on the radar of major colleges:
1. Put up a Great Wall around your Social Media Kingdom.
Enable all the privacy settings you can on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. That includes hiding pictures of yourself from everyone to see (which is just great advice for anyone in general).
2. If you're receiving friend requests, or follow requests, from people you don't know -- DON'T ACCEPT THEM.
If they say they're a college coach, or a reporter, investigate them before accepting. Facebook tends to make the job of recruiting sites easier, serving as a way to get cell phone numbers or directly contact a recruit. But to protect yourself from burning up in the spotlight, be wary of the access you're giving fans, reporters, coaches... basically, be wary of everyone.
Does that sound jaded? Sure, absolutely. But with the influx of attention given to the world of recruiting, better safe than sorry. I'm cool with recruits making my job more difficult, because that helps separate the "fan reporters" from the real journalists.