When the NCAA's Division I Council banned satellite football camps on April 8, it also passed a couple of policies that deal with how coaches communicate with current recruits.
The council deregulated electronic communication between football (and cross country, track and field and swimming and diving) coaches and their recruits, giving them the leeway to send unlimited text messages to prospects. It also allowed coaches to "indicate approval" of recruits' social media posts, meaning they're now allowed to retweet or like or share these high schoolers' tweets and Facebook posts. Recruits think it's awesome.
These rules will likely be in effect by August. (The camps ban is immediate.)
The changes are a tough nut to crack for coaches, who will need to find a balance between showing recruits how much they care without appearing overeager, either in public or private. And coaches are worried about it on other levels, too.
Coaches think players' phones are going to get crushed with text messages all throughout the day.
Coaches have always been allowed to call recruits at certain times of year, and Tulane head coach Willie Fritz has already seen the problem rear its head.
"Now, there's kids in a class," he told SB Nation. "I don't know how many times I've called student-athletes and thought that they were out of school and didn't have a class that period, and they answer the phone, and there's class. If we're a school they're interested in, you tell them, ‘Hey, I'll call you back when you get done with class. I'm sorry, I thought you were free this period,' or whatever the case may be."
That's going to be a thing now with text messages, too. It's hard to say how often coaches will text recruits, as it will surely vary by staff.
For much of the year, football players have practice or workouts for hours after school. Then they've got homework. They've got social lives to work around, and maybe their parents want them at the table for dinner. It's going to be pretty hard for football coaches to work around that.
"I go back to what's best for the student-athlete. Do you want to have a student-athlete have a bunch of text messages every hour or every day?" Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told us. "And is it a distraction for him? Is it in their best interest?"
In a press conference this week, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer called unlimited texting "the most ignorant thing I've ever heard." Fritz thinks recruits are going to get a total avalanche.
"I don't think this is a student-athlete-friendly rule change," he said. "I could see kids getting two or three hundred texts a day from 20, 30 different universities. When you're reading all those, that's taking time away from being good at something else, and I just don't know if it's gonna be a good thing."
College football might fall prey to Big Retweet.
Fritz has a prediction on the social media changes.
"I'm concerned that some programs, you give ‘em an inch, they're gonna take a mile," Fritz said. "You have guys that are gonna hire people to just text all day on a position coach's phone, on one of your nine eligible recruiters."
It's an open secret that many coaches don't run their own Twitter accounts. Staff or graduate assistants or interns often do it, but a few things could happen now. Either Fritz's prediction will come true, and Twitter timelines will become an outright battlefield. Or it won't, with head coaches too paranoid to give control of their public image to a staffer with so much at stake.
Either way, coaches are less than enamored.
"I think that's just gonna become a numbers game," Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck told SB Nation. 'You know, 'How many retweets will I get?' And [if] a kid's gonna put that much stock into how many coaches retweet my messages, how much they actually like me, they're probably not the right kid for us."
Whittingham was pretty well at ease with the way things were before, both on social media and texting.
"I thought we had a pretty good situation prior to this rule change," he said. "Things were in good order, and I'm not sure that this is a good thing."
So why the change?
From the NCAA itself:
Intent: To establish exceptions to the prohibitions on endorsements of events that primarily involve prospective student-athletes, or endorsements of a prospective student-athlete's team or coach, or an athletics facility that is primarily used by prospective student-athletes, and an exception to the restrictions on publicity before commitment that permits actions (e.g., "like," "favorite," republish, "tag," etc.) by an institutional staff member on social media platforms that indicate approval of content on social media platforms that was generated by users of the platforms other than institutional staff members or representatives of an institution's athletics interests.
Rationale: Under the current legislation, it is difficult to monitor all coaches and their social media activities (e.g., "likes," "favorites," republishing, "tags," etc.). This proposal would create exceptions to the restrictions related to endorsement activities and publicity related to recruiting on social media platforms and attempt to maintain pace with the frequent creation and/or enhancement of social media applications.
Too long; didn't read? The NCAA realizes enforcing its existing social media prohibitions was inefficient at best, and more likely impossible, so it lessened its burden.