Timing is everything. After a three month vacation, my return to writing was supposed to be kicked off with my annual letter to college football fans to be adults (even if you can't legally buy a bottle of Zima). It came as no surprise to see that this topic was already covered quite "extensively" by, unquestionably, the biggest name in sports in ESPN.
Jeremy Crabtree wrote a cleverly titled article called , "Social Distortion" in which he describes how crazy it gets with overzealous fans and their determination to interact, and recruit high school prospects to their favorite college. Crabtree then goes onto an ESPN Recruiting Nation show titled "Official Visit" to discuss and promote the article.
And this is where the problem gets twisted and compounded.
Recruiting is the "lifeblood of the program," or so we are told. Never mind the coaches who get fired after a few mediocre seasons despite annual top 10 recruiting classes. Recruiting is sold as the HOLY GRAIL of this sport. Never mind that a more accurate description would be some type of wicked witches potion to get that unbelievable season. Nick Saban is hailed as a god for what he has done at Alabama, yet Saban never came close to the success that Mark Dantonio has had at Michigan State while he was the head coach of the Spartans. (Revisionist history, I suppose).
So, here we have recruiting websites like Rivals and 24/7 and even ESPN reporting as heavily on these recruits as they do on current college players (and in some cases infinitely more), but now they are telling people to exercise caution with this monster that they keep hitting lightning bolts with more and more every year. It's basically the equivalent of a drug dealer selling you crack, and right afterwards preaching to you in the holding cell in the county jail about getting your ass to rehab.
This whole thing is just a mess. I won't sit here and pretend that I don't follow recruiting, because of course I do. However, I have changed not only the way in which I follow it, but also the way in which I write and discuss it here at Subway Domer. Things are what they are, but there is hope.
There is hope that people will start to wake up and realize that these are children/young adults that they are talking about, talking to, and involving themselves with. Don't be that creep. Don't talk to someone else's kid on the internet. That should be a fairly simple life rule that everyone could follow.
So, if you want to know how you can still follow recruiting without being super-creepy-strange-pathetic-internet-recruiting guy- please read the following letter I wrote a couple of years ago….
Over the past several years, social media has critical massed itself 100 times over. Almost everyone you know is either on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or a wicked cocktail mix of the three. This is the new world that we are living in, where information is everywhere and everyone has their opinion that absolutely MUST be heard.
It is within this brand new world where the rules are in a fuzzy shade of gray. Why? Because like most of the internet for the past 15+ years, there are no rules. To be honest, I like having no rules. No rules allows for self-moderation, and self-moderation can lead to an enlightenment of ones own morals, ideas, and personality. Unfortunately, there are thousands upon thousands that are unable to operate within a certain code of conduct within this digital realm that the non-digital world lays out in law and in societal rules.
Why are we talking about this? Well, because of that "gray" area, people actually think it's acceptable to interact with recruits via social networks. They think it's OK to try and get involved with some 17 or 18 year old high school student. They think it's OK to try and get involved in the lives of kids. This is definitely not "OK."
People, mostly grown men, spend their days trying to contact potential "program changing" high school athletes. Most of these attempts are "harmless" in their minds, but at the root of situation lays the problem. They justify talking to a 17 year old on the internet because they are offering, "wisdom," words of encouragement, and of course advise on where these kids should attend college. It's all innocent and good natured- right?
Wrong. Because it is acceptable in their eyes, it is also "acceptable" to chastise, warn, threaten, and downright get nasty with these recruits when someone else's child makes a decision about their life that they don't like. This, of course, is why social media has become a threat to college football- because it is not right to try and get involved in these kids lives.
The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington recently published an article speaking to some of this. A lot of the article had to do with message board posters. As unfortunate as the negative comments and the consequences that they have on these message boards are; they are mostly intended for the "boards" themselves and are not a direct attack upon a particular recruit. That doesn't make it right, but it is what it is because for many years this is what has been accepted. We allow poison in our lives.
Now is the time to make the move to strike against this nonsense across the realm of social media. We as fans, bloggers, parents, friends, and members of a more decent society must make the stand against those that would use these platforms to "help" their school/team by chastising kids who may not make the decision for their lives that some grown adults would like.
We have long seen people "friend" recruits on Facebook and then leave nasty messages for all to see. We have seen people on Twitter harass recruits on a daily basis for them to "make up their minds" on the biggest decision of these kids lives. What the hell is wrong with these people?
Recently on Twitter, I came across some "fan" of a particular school cuss out a recruit because they "THOUGHT" that the recruit has already chosen a rival school to commit to. It was flat out disturbing. Equally disturbing was "fans" of the same school trying to reach out to the recruit to tell him that this isn't what this particular school was about- blah, blah, blah. They are all, in effect, trying to become recruiters for their institution. This is wrong, and also a NCAA violation.
Notre Dame had a decommitment last night. I am not on Facebook all that much, and I certainly did not "friend" this particular recruit, but i am positive that he has already felt the wrath of those who felt betrayed. This is what our beloved sport has turned in to. A massive cat fight between fans, recruits, and parents of recruits via social networking. It's sad. We need to take this sport back from the lunatics.
I am proposing a set of standards:
- Absolutely NO Facebook. Do not "friend" these recruits or join their "groups." Facebook is much too personal. Even asking to be a friend just to follow what they say is too intrusive.
If you are on Twitter, I think it is OK to follow a recruits account. It's basically public information, so seeing what info is out there is no big deal. However… if a recruit's account is protected, I recommend not following. A protected account needs the approval of the user, which is a lot like Facebook friending. Also, DO NOT INTERACT WITH A RECRUIT FOR ANY REASON. It doesn't matter if you are just saying something like,
"Congrats man! Eastern Michigan needed you and your decision just made my day!" Or,
"Our class is filling up! Still have room at Wyoming for great TE recruits like you. Be a Cowboy and be a LEGEND 4eva!!!"
None of this is OK.
That should be simple enough. Basically, don't interact with someone else's kid. Don't become involved. Don't be a factor- whether good or bad.
We as fans and bloggers can help clean this up by policing our own. Let's help create a culture void of this type of interaction. I am asking all of you to help spread this message. Become co-signers. Simply; retweet, like, copy and paste, link- whatever. Spread the word that this type of behavior is not acceptable. If you want to help your school ,these recruits, and college football- follow these guidelines and let others know that they should do the same!
The Subway Domer