Social networking keeps coaches current
Thursday, September 10, 2009
• College Preview: Inside Recruiting
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UCLA men’s coach Derek Freeman enjoyed watching “some incredible matches” at the U.S. Junior Amateur this summer because the players had “no endorsement deals” and were playing for the “love of the game.”
South Florida women’s coach Marci Kornegay marveled at the progress of her program’s renovated practice facility.
Colorado men’s coach Roy Edwards decided to give up eating at Chipotle for five years after watching Tom Watson’s British Open performance.
None of this was retrieved from interviews or newspaper clippings. Instead, it came from Twitter, the social-networking Web site popularized by celebrities and athletes and starting to catch on among college golf coaches.
“It gives the recruits an opportunity to see some of your personality,” said Texas women’s coach Martha Richards, who started tweeting in April. “It’s what this generation is accustomed to.”
Though coaches’ tweeting dinner plans or updating their players’ amateur results isn’t likely to land a potential recruit, using all forms of communication can’t hurt when promoting a golf program.
“I think you’re falling behind on some recruits if you’re not doing it,” Duke men’s coach Jamie Green said.
The NCAA has emphasized that rules already in place for e-mails and text messaging also apply to social networking.
- Speak about recruits or tweet about them.
- Send recruits unsolicited text messages.
- Write unsolicited messages on recruits’ Facebook walls.
- Send recruits direct messages on Facebook or Twitter.
The NCAA treats private communication on social networking outlets like e-mail because recruits have to accept friend requests on Facebook or choose to follow someone on Twitter. Text messaging, on the other hand, is not allowed because the recipient is not in control of what he or she receives.
“The NCAA member schools must remain vigilant on educating their athletics personnel, fans and boosters about the ground rules for communicating with recruits,” NCAA spokesperson Cameron Schuh said.
Division III, which had voted to forbid Facebook and Twitter contact between coaches and recruits, recently approved an exception that would allow coaches and schools to utilize social-networking sites to advertise their programs. Direct contact with recruits through the sites, however, still is prohibited.
Coaches say they use Twitter and Facebook not only to promote their programs but also stay current with high school students who already use the networks. However, staying up-to-date and in contact with potential recruits in a virtual world can’t take the place of a face-to-face meeting.
“You can guess about their personality by how they interact online, but really having them on campus and seeing when their eyes light up . . . those personal connections are huge for me,” Green said.
The number of college programs that use Facebook and Twitter on an active basis, though growing, still is relatively small, and it’s difficult to quantify whether these tools actually have swayed students one way or another. Many coaches still are learning how to most effectively apply their use to recruiting.
“Social networking can help you get in the door, but at the end of the day nobody is going to make a decision based on Twitter and Facebook,” Texas’ Richards said. “And if they do, you should be a little concerned.”
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Staying in touch
Some college golf programs that tweet (www.twitter.com):
Central Florida: /UCF_Golf
SMU: /SMUGolfM, /SMUGolfW
South Florida: /USFBullsGolf
UCLA: /UCLA_bruin18 (pictured)