In the high-pressure and competitive world of college football recruiting, coaches have to keep up with the latest communication technology or risk being left behind.
That’s certainly the case for Auburn’s coaching staff, which places an emphasis on being creative and proactive in the recruiting process.
“If it’s out there and it will help us recruit and it’s within the rules, we’ll definitely be willing to try it,” Auburn assistant coach Trooper Taylor said.
One of the best ways college coaches are reaching today’s recruits is through Facebook.
“Facebook is a really good tool because it’s the same as sending them an email,” Taylor said. “What you can’t do is post on their wall or have a live chat where you’re talking back and forth directly.”
Many prospects also have smart phones, which allow them instant access to Facebook updates and messages.
“It’s huge because when you Facebook, it shows up on their phone,” Taylor said. “The emails that they get shows up on their phone and they can look at your website and pull up information about you or watch a highlight tape or whatever.
“Now a lot of them have the iPads and are doing the same thing with that. It’s just an amazing tool and allows you to stay in touch with kids when you can’t pick up the phone and call them.”
Facebook can also be an evaluation tool for college coaches. The amount of information that teens often put on their Facebook pages can be very revealing.
“A lot of them put a lot of information on there too so it’s like having a built in questionnaire because it has all the things he likes, his family, if he has Christian values and morals, all that. It’s a great source of information,” Taylor said.
“But it all comes back to relationships. It’s something that gives you a lot of information but being able to get in his home and talk to him on the phone make a difference.”
Another newer technological innovation, Skype, is just starting to find its way into the recruiting world. Skype allows free video conferencing over the internet.
To this point, Auburn’s coaches haven’t used Skype due to concerns about NCAA compliance issues, difficulties in setting up video conferences and an emphasis on getting prospects on campus for face-to-face interactions.
“Rather than break a rule or them make a rule about us, which they’ve been known to do, we decided to go the other way,” Taylor said. “Really, by the time you get all that set up it’s really not worth the effort when you can have them call you.
“It might be good for schools that recruit from a long distance but most of our guys are within 300 miles so we can get our kids to our games and get to see them and get them on our campus.”
Of course, as coaches find new ways to contact recruits, the NCAA is usually not far behind creating new rules to limit that contact. Just a few years ago, text messaging was an unregulated way coaches could stay in close contact with prospects. But a complete ban on text messages was implemented by the NCAA in 2007.
The NCAA is expected to take a fresh look at Facebook, Skype and other means of contacting recruits this summer.
“I think anytime they feel like an athlete is being taken advantage of or being abused, usually that’s when the rule comes about,” Taylor said. “For us, Facebook has been a great tool so I really hope they don’t take it away.
“I really hate that they took text messages away. I really think that was more for lazy coaches who didn’t want to have to do it as opposed to the kids having a problem. I don’t know very many teenagers and kids that aren’t texting right now. My kids text me from downstairs.”