NCAA FB

College staffs turn to Twitter for recruiting edge

Share This Story

   
 

Recruiting is the lifeline of college coaches and with teenagers using social media like Twitter to communicate, some football staffs have pushed the boundaries of NCAA regulations to reach top high school recruits.

National Signing Day is Wednesday and the stakes are high.

The NCAA allows schools to confirm they're recruiting a specific unsigned prospect, but coaches can't comment on that recruit's athletic ability, how he'd contribute to their team or the likelihood that prospect might commit to a particular school.

Some coaches and staffers are bending the rules, tweeting thinly veiled references to prospects without naming them.

J.R. Sandlin was working as a recruiting analyst at Notre Dame on Dec. 17 when he tweeted, ''The DT from KY calling me out. Just wait my man! Just wait! We want you here! Need u to be Irish!'' One day later, Sandlin tweeted that ''what I like about `THE' 2014 DT from KY is the explosive power he can generate from his lower body. Truly impressive. The guy is a BEAST!'' He didn't name a prospect, but the only defensive tackle from Kentucky being recruited by Notre Dame was Matt Elam of John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown.

The Twitter feed of five-star running back prospect Leonard Fournette of St. Augustine High in New Orleans is filled with references to ''Buga Nation.'' Fournette was still uncommitted on Dec. 18 when LSU coach Les Miles tweeted ''Geaux Buga Nation!!!'' Miles' message received 782 retweets, including one from Fournette himself. Two weeks later, Fournette committed to LSU.

NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn said the NCAA rules on what a coach says to or about a recruit also apply to social media.

''It doesn't matter if you're doing it when you talk to a reporter or are on social media,'' Osburn said. ''It's the same rule.''

Jen Vining-Smith, Notre Dame's assistant athletic director for compliance, said she got several calls from compliance officers at other universities regarding Sandlin's Dec. 18 tweet about the Kentucky prospect. Vining-Smith told Sandlin she could defend the tweet, but she didn't want him tweeting so ''pointedly'' again.

''I do think it pushes right up to the line. ... You can't make it that identifiable,'' Vining-Smith said.

Miles was reminded by LSU administration officials to use caution when taking to Twitter to discuss recruiting. He was not admonished, however, because officials determined that Miles had tweeted a phrase which was not a direct reference to Fournette, as opposed to using a publicly known nickname, for example.

''Coach Miles understands that social media gives him the forum to promote his program to tens of thousands of people at any given time,'' LSU athletic department spokesman Michael Bonnette said in an email to The Associated Press. ''He's careful and mindful of the rules when it comes to using social media as a recruiting tool, but he's savvy enough to understand the impact that it can have.''

Coaches can tweet to their heart's content to let fans know that ''someone'' has verbally committed to their school without actually mentioning the recruit by name. And they're doing it all over the country, whether it's Tennessee's Butch Jones tweeting ''(hash)BrickByBrick'' or Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin tweeting ''(hash)Yessir!''

Some coaches, like Alabama's Nick Saban, doesn't use Twitter as a part of his recruiting tactics. But not everyone can afford to take the approach by Saban, who consistently lands top recruiting classes.

Tennessee compliance director Todd Dooley has heard of a coach attempting to contact a recruit via direct message - allowed by NCAA rules - and inadvertently put the note on his actual Twitter feed instead.

Dooley said he doesn't mind if Tennessee's coaches tweet about what places they're visiting on recruiting trips, but he asks them to avoid saying a specific school ''or anything that would narrow it down to people being able to identify a specific recruit.''

Vining-Smith gives Notre Dame's coaches similar advice.

''If they're going to Texas and if they say, `I'm heading to Dallas to find some talent' or whatever, well that's fine because there are plenty of people in Dallas they could be going to see,'' Vining-Smith said. ''And my opinion on that is even if we're recruiting one kid from Dallas, I'm still OK with it because Dallas is a big city and there are lots of kids there that have the talent to play at Notre Dame.

''If they're going to Santa Claus, Ind., and there's one high school in that town and they say `Heading to Santa Claus, Ind.,' I have a different perspective on that. They're specifically saying where they're going and more importantly, it's a little bit more direct as to who they're probably going to see.''

Compliance officers are policing one another in an informal checks-and-balances effort.

They often call one another about tweets that might have crossed a line. Then it's up to each school's compliance officer to determine whether the tweet can be defended or needs to be reported.

''In the grand scheme of things, if someone called the NCAA to report a violation about Twitter, they would be like, `Are you serious? Call us about something about extra benefits or cars being given. Call the schools, because that's how this process is supposed to work,' '' Vining-Smith said. ''You're really supposed to call each other out.''

Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said he doesn't think the NCAA should allow any sort of interaction between coaches and recruits on Twitter, even by direct messaging. He said prospects sometimes use Twitter to play out the recruiting process and get more followers.

''I've seen kids after they commit to a school, lose thousands of followers and they're crestfallen because of it,'' Farrell said.

Then again, sometimes a tweet doesn't have much of an impact at all.

Shortly after Sandlin tweeted about a ''DT from KY,'' Elam dropped Notre Dame from consideration. Elam announced Thursday he had chosen Kentucky over Alabama.

Naturally, not long after Elam made his pick, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops tweeted, ''Great Day for the State of Kentucky and the BBN (Big Blue Nation)!!!''

--

AP writer Tom Coyne of South Bend, Ind., and AP sports writer Brett Martel of Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this report.

Tagged: Notre Dame, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, LSU, Matt Elam

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash