Social Media’s Impact on College Recruiting

“If you want to be a good recruiter in today’s college football, you have to be on [social media]. If you’re not doing it, you’re going to get beat by somebody that’s doing it. You have to be out there. You have to be different. You have to be completely visible and be accessible, and the best way to do that in today’s recruiting world is through social media.”

Iowa State director of scouting John Kuceyeski, who is quoted above, stated what’s obvious to anyone who is a fan of college sports. The way collegiate athletes are recruited has changed significantly over the past 20 or so years. The reason for this evolution is because of the new role that social media plays in the process. Social media tools have brought a plethora of new ways to make recruiting athletes much easier. However, even though it has definitely been the cause of many improvements, social media can also negative factor as well, and has made the process more complicated than ever before.

In the past, coaches and recruiters were at a severe disadvantage when it came to the information they could access on potential recruits. They had little to no access on film on players that they were interested in. There were few forms of communication between coaches and recruits. This all changed when certain websites were created for the sole purpose of being a database for a wide range of statistics and other information on athletes. For example, consider a website like Rivals. This platform ranks an athlete based on many factors, such as how they performed in high school, or how well they tested in recruiting camps. Colleges can see these stats , and factor them into its consideration on  whether or not they should pursue that athlete. Other websites, such as Hudl, serve as a place where high school players can put film on the internet so that coaches and schools have easy access to see them play. Tools like this did not exist in the past, and it is now easier for coaches and players to connect in meaningful ways than ever before.

With all the benefits that have come with social media, it has also brought an added element of risk as well. The advent of Twitter exposes recruits to a plethora of coaches and schools. However, these are the not the only groups who can communicate with them; fans have access to their accounts as well. In the past, recruiting was done behind closed doors, but this is no longer the case. Because of this recent development, fans now can be a huge factor to whether or not a player commits, and often times, athletes will de-commit due to negative interactions that they had over social media. For instance, former Oklahoma State QB commit Nick Starkel said this of his recruiting process:

“The whole process was honestly so negative. Fans hop onto social media and take shots at high school kids who are being asked to make the biggest decision of their lives so far. Some fans don’t realize that we’re just kids making a huge decision. It’s very disrespectful when you get tweets saying, ‘I hope you never succeed.'”

In Starkel’s situation, the four-star quarterback walked away from a verbal commitment to the Cowboys with a tweet that thanked State for recruiting him, stating his situation had changed after discussions and prayer with his family. His news was regrettably greeted with vitriol:

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These tweets were on the nicer side of things; there were many more tweets that I don’t feel comfortable putting in this blog. These kind of tweets can cause an athlete to not consider going to the school of the fans who said the disparaging remarks. Coaches also have to be wary with how they deal with these kids, as they can be a motivator for de-commiting as well. When Tate Martell, a 5 Star recruit, decided to de-commit from Texas A&M after talking with his family, the A&M wide receivers coach felt the need to chime in.

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He later tweeted, “Scared for this next group of kids. There is no accountability and no sense of positivity when it comes to adversity. #selfish #allaboutme.”

Due to this coaches comments, 4 star recruit Mannie Netherly decided he was no longer taking his talents to A&M:

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In addition, 5 star recruit Tyjon Lindsey decided to attend another school as well:

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On the flip side, athletes also have to be careful of how they present themselves on social media, as coaches and recruiters now have unprecedented access to their personal lives. How these players act on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is constantly being observed, whether they know it or not. Van Malone, defensive coordinator for SMU’s football team, tweeted out a picture that displayed how deep a school can go with how they monitor recruits:

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As you can see, they leave no stone left unturned. And if athletes screw up and post something stupid, they can easily get their offer rescinded:

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One of the most notable instances of this happening was with a football player named Yuri Wright, who had double digit offers from elite programs, but lost many of them when suspects Twitter posts he wrote emerged.

So in short, while social media has provided great benefits that have improved the recruiting game in college athletics, it has also produced a lot of risk that both athletes and coaches have to navigate through if they want to succeed.

 

 

9 comments

  1. mikeknoll98 · ·

    As someone who has gone through this process this was a really interesting post to read! The use of social media for recruiting has become even more important than when I went through it and is only continuing to be a weapon for coaches to get to know players before they get on campus. Along with this, social media is less regulated by the NCAA with regards to coach and recruit communication, and coaches love to use this to get every edge they can when it comes to wooing recruits. Great post.

  2. Austin Ellis · ·

    Really interesting post! The recruiting process already seems pretty stressful, opening it up to the world for comment would grow that 10-fold. I am sure recruits also have a lot to worry about monitoring their own social media presence in order to be appealing to schools. Good job taking a look at a specific use for social media.

  3. polmankevin · ·

    Great post. I think the most powerful point in this blog is that social media pulled recruiting from behind closed doors and brought it out into the public. Its crazy to think that high school students already have huge followings of fans and critics. But in a country where we take collegiate sports extremely seriously, it makes sense. Social media brought so many challenges but also so many additional obstacles. As you pointed out, these challenges are felt by players, but also by coaches. The job role of the college recruited has definitely changed a lot in the past ten years. It is certainly more excited, but also more difficult.

  4. holdthemayo4653 · ·

    Great insight. I hadn’t thought about the “fans” aspect of social media in recruiting. While undeserved, choosing to be an athlete puts you in the public eye and all that comes with it. It is definitely something to consider when choosing this path. I can only imagine what some of my social media posts would reveal from my college days. Thank god photos weren’t a part of facebook my freshman year! Do you think that prospective students use social media the same way to gauge a future teammates and coaches?

  5. I think this post provided a great piece of insight into a process that many people don’t get to go through. I think this definitely puts a lot more pressure on athletes to always be performing at their highest. Previously, they would know when scouts attended a game, but with technology, a scout could watch literally every game. I’ve seen some athletes who may not have fit the traditional bill for a football or basketball athlete in terms of size or skill but still got a shot at some decent schools because of their good online presence. With things like YouTube and Hudl making highlight videos so easy to make, players definitely have the opportunity to create a brand for themselves. But, as usual, they have realize how negative it can be on their future. Thanks for posting!

  6. Best advice to all prospective athletes getting recruited – sign off of social media for the short term! I have seen it first hand do harm to recruits and current college players, either through post or images. However as you acknowledge, some of the new platforms created have really impacted college recruiting and exposure. I also believe it makes it more interactive for fans across the country – insightful post!

  7. cmackeenbc · ·

    The digital technology that has developed surrounding the college recruiting process is wild. When I was going through the process for swimming, I think I was on around four different platforms in an attempt to connect with the best program for me. The swimming recruiting process is obviously far less high-stakes than football recruiting, but I think the overarching theme is the same: social media allows us to connect in ways far greater than before, but the culture of oversharing on these same platforms can damage these connections before they even start. It is also hard to think about how young these students are when the process begins. Think about all the dumb/silly things you did or said as a sophomore, junior, even senior in high school. In this digital world, those actions are easily recorded and tough to shake off once posted. In an odd way, social media forces students to grow up if they wish to be taken seriously by coaches and employers, but it also decreases the wiggle room for mistakes and thus increases pressure on young recruits. I am interested to see if more potential college athletes will just nix social media altogether, or if they will use the tools of connection it provides more heavily as time goes on. Great post!

  8. michaelahoff · ·

    Good stuff. I wonder if a program will find a way to game the system maybe by creating bots that tweet positive stuff at recruits that stand out among the negative stuff. Saban’s probably already on it.

  9. jagpalsingh03 · ·

    Great post! One aspect you don’t really think about during this recruiting process is what the coach or institution could do do dissuade potential athletes, like the coach at A&M. It is crazy how much more pressure these high school (16, 17, 18 year old) athletes have being in the public spot light 24/7 because of their online presence. At the same time, we’ve seen athletes take advantage of these new platforms and come up with crazy commitment videos such as skydiving, etc. So there are pros and cons but I’m interested to see where this aspect of football goes forward as more athletes spend more of their lives online.

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