April 28, 2013

Social media rewriting the rules for college recruits

As coaches rely on Twitter and Facebook to make personal connections, NCAA regulations on texting continue to evolve.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Somewhere in Allie Clement's home in Falmouth is a box filled with unopened letters. Probably about 100, according to her father, Brian, all from colleges looking to lure her to their campus and basketball court.

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Allie Clement, a junior guard at McAuley High, considers letters, and even emails, from college coaches passe. Private Twitter messages and Facebook posts get her attention.

Maine Sunday Telegram file photo/John Patriquin

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McAuley’s Allie Clement pulls up for a jumper on March 2.

Maine Sunday Telegram file photo/John Ewing

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It's not that Clement, a junior guard at Catherine McAuley High School in Portland, isn't interested in any of those colleges. It's just that letters are so passe.

If you want to recruit Clement or any of the other top girls' basketball players in the state, you'd better have a more modern approach, such as private messages on Twitter or Facebook.

"When you get a letter, or even an email, you know it's the same thing they've sent to a ton of people," said Clement. "It's just a form letter, unless they send an email to you specifically, asking how your season is going.

"To be honest, I don't even open them anymore. They're just generic."

Clement got her first letters in the mail when she was in seventh grade and admittedly was excited. Now, she gets a bigger thrill when she receives a direct message on Twitter or a private Facebook post from a coach.

"It's a personal connection that you make with a coach and the players," she said. "Their personalities can really show through Facebook and Twitter."

Social media has taken the lead role in college recruiting, though there are limitations as to what forms of communication are allowed under NCAA rules.

The NCAA considers the one-on-one communication of private Facebook messages or Twitter's direct messages a form of email, which is permissible under NCAA recruiting guidelines. Instant messaging and chat rooms are not allowed, however, nor are text messages from NCAA Division I and Division II schools, with one exception -- Division I men's basketball.

College coaches these days are relying more on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram -- even YouTube to the extent that recruits can showcase their personal highlights -- not only to communicate with their recruits, but also to get a glimpse into their personalities.

"It is an enormous part of recruiting today," said Amy Vachon, an assistant coach for the University of Maine's women's basketball team. "Just a huge piece."

But the NCAA is struggling to fully grasp the effects of social media on recruiting.

According to NCAA spokesman Cameron Schuh, Division III is the only level where texting is allowed for all sports, as voted by its membership in January. In Division I, only men's basketball coaches can text recruits. Division II does not allow texting.

Vachon noted that she can receive text messages from recruits but cannot answer them.

"I feel kind of like a jerk," she said. "I can't even text back to tell them I can't text them."

But she knows the rules are fluid.

"It's all changing," she said.


On May 2, the NCAA Division I board of directors will reconsider the use of texting as a recruiting tool. The review is being conducted because at least 75 Division I schools requested an override of the rule permitting men's basketball coaches to text recruits.

Doug Leichner, the associate men's basketball coach at UMaine, doesn't understand the fuss. He said text messaging is a vital part of recruiting: "If you do not communicate in the language of the person you're recruiting, then you are immediately behind. And texting is the form of communication of guys that we're recruiting.

"It's a free-flowing form of communication that I think recruits as well as coaches have embraced."

But in a story that appeared on the NCAA website, one of the schools that requested the override wrote in a letter that allowing coaches and recruits to exchange text messages could cause recruits to be overwhelmed by the number of messages they received and distract coaches from their current duties.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Lake Region’s Tiana Jo Carter defends during a game against York on Feb. 23.

Maine Sunday Telegram file photo/John Ewing

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Olivia Smith of Portland’s McAuley High School drives in a game against Cheverus on Jan. 15.

Maine Sunday Telegram file photo/Gregory Rec


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