As interest in recruiting grows, fans, coaches, and recruits face new dangers.
The VCU basketball program has such great forward momentum that it feels like the coaches, players, athletic department, and fans are experiencing something entirely new every week. Two weeks ago, Michael Gilmore joined Terry Larrier, Justin Tillman, and Jonathan Williams in what is, on paper, VCU’s best recruiting class to date.
In addition to being a wicked talented bunch of basketball players, the 2014 class was the most closely followed in VCU history. In 2011, McDonald’s All-American Rodney Purvis put VCU on his short list, but the reactions that elicited seem negligible compared to the fever pitch that has consumed fans this recruiting season.
From a distance, college recruiting is a bizarre phenomenon: thousands of people interpreting the tone of tweets searching for any hint that their school is going to pick up a verbal commitment from the next Tim Duncan or Kevin Durant. Like it or not, it is here to stay and it’s presence in the media, both professional and social, is going to continue to expand.
Recruiting is fun for fans. It’s a great way for fans to put their finger on the pulse of a team and to understand how a team is put together. Fans can become emotionally invested in their next favorite player while they are still that young star on the AAU circuit or the sophomore who hit that game winning shot in the sectional tournament. It allows fans to stay engaged 12 months a year, and asking “what if” is a fundamental part of any passion, but it isn’t without its dangers.
Nowhere is more dangerous for the average fan than the Internet. The New York Times summed it up nicely:
The N.C.A.A. allows coaches to correspond with recruits via e-mail, fax and social networking sites. But since 2007, it has prohibited all other forms of electronically transmitted correspondence, including text messaging, instant messaging and posting messages on a user’s Facebook wall. Alumni, fans and boosters, individually or in organized groups, are not permitted to contact a recruit for the purpose of enticing him to attend a particular university.
Or as the VCU compliance office recently shared:
Only VCU coaches may be involved in the recruiting process. You may not have any telephone, written (e.g., letter, e-mail, fax, Twitter, Facebook, chat rooms, message boards, etc.) or in-person contact with a prospective student-athlete for recruiting purposes. A prospect is defined as an individual who has started classes for the ninth grade, including individuals enrolled in preparatory school and two-year institutions regarding the possibility of transferring to VCU.
Remember, when a recruit commits to a school, they are still a recruit. As nice as it is to send @FutureRam a congratulations, it is still technically against the rules.
Linebacker CJ Johnson accepted Facebook requests during his recruitment until he reached the limit of 5,000 friends. When he reopened his commitment because the Mississippi State defensive coordinator took a job at Texas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss fans got ugly on his Facebook:
The internet is littered with stories about violations, but none are quite as embarrassing as the one involving Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. A life long Michigan supporter, Costolo caught headlines for a violation on his own social network in July after tweeting congratulations to Wolverine commits Wilton Speight and George Campbell.
VCU fans are no stranger to the advantages or disadvantages of social media. One week before VCU’s run to the Final Four, George Mason’s Andre Cornelius tweeted “The game is over don’t forget to tell VCU that’s over” two hours before the tipoff of the semi final of the CAA Tournament. Fueled by the tweet (and swag), VCU destroyed #25 George Mason 79-63 just three weeks after losing to them by 20 points at home. Months later, Coach Smart silenced his team on Twitter.
Michael Gilmore, Terry Larrier, Justin Tillman, and Jonathan Williams will take HAVOC! to the next level, but Coach Smart and Coach Rhoades didn’t need help bringing them to VCU. So sit back and relax while they do all the work, besides, if the A-10 media day is any indication, Coach Smart has quite a pitch:
I’m spreading the word today. VCU is the place to be. Come down, spend some time around there, and you’ll see. I really enjoy it there. My family enjoys it there. Number one reason that I love it at VCU is because everyday I come to work, and I am just so excited and eager to be around our players and be around our coaching staff. I think that’s what any of us look for in a job.” City Basketball of Love