Eddie George watched “Yentl” on his 48 hour visit from Fork Union Military Academy (VA.) to Ohio State. He didn’t have the chance to take to Twitter or Facebook to talk about how lame that might have been while other recruits were out enjoying all that Old Columbus Town had to offer on a Friday night. The cinematic masterpiece from Barbra Streisand notwithstanding, George committed to Ohio State anyway. He still didn’t have the opportunity to tweet from @3dd1e_G_27 and announce it to the world.
Today’s recruiting process is a whole mess different than just a short 20 years ago when Eddie picked the Scarlet and Gray. Recruits today are inundated from their Junior year of high school by all manner of people, from their coaches to their prospective college coaches, about which institution of higher learning to attend. That doesn’t even take into account the massive following that college football and basketball recruiting has amassed amongst the general public.
Joe Average can now, in just a few short keystrokes, find out where a particular player is taking an official visit that weekend, or find out how many offers he has and from which programs. They can then hop onto Twitter and engage that prospect directly with almost complete unfettered access. They have the ability (but perhaps not the common sense) to send unsolicited advice to these kids on the best course of action for them, as if by being a fan of a particular program gives them infinite insight into what is best for any one high school student athlete.
Such is life in the modern age of recruiting. With the pervasiveness of Social Media in general, recruits are opening their lives to the world and inviting these sorts of people into their lives to poke, prod, and invest emotion. While many may not intend to do so, there is little that they can do to filter the undesirables from the truly altruistic. The attention they receive can sometime then feed the cycle and cause a recruit to forget themselves and wrap themselves up in the commotion, the emotion, and the frenzy regarding their school choice.
This can lead to overly extended recruiting processes, some leading right up until the prospect signs the National Letter of Intent on national television doing what some call “The Hat Dance.” Ohio State fans know the Hat Dance all too well as we all waited with bated breath while a certain player from Pennsylvania kept the entirety of three states in suspense as he picked “The University of……Ohio State” and then signed on the dotted line.
Over the course of my semi-professional blogging career, I have watched the recruitment process with equal parts disgust and admiration. Disgust towards Joe Average who thinks that inserting himself into the process will sway a recruit one way or the other, and admiration and respect for the professionals that only wish to do their job yet inadvertently feed the frenzy that Joe Average thrives on. The amount of vitriol, vile words and hate that is directed at regional and national recruiting writers on a daily basis on Social Media is absolutely appalling. While I respect Mike Farrell for the tireless work he puts in, I do not envy him.
Farrell is, depending on the day and the particular school he is reporting on, either a Recruiting God or an Absolute Homer. This is a guy who just wants to do his job for Rivals and do it well. Which he does, day in and day out. He doesn’t hold any grudge or animosity towards any program or coach (that I have witnessed), yet is constantly excoriated by Joe Average about the smallest things. Yet Joe Average will be back two days later to ask Mike’s opinion on which way Recruit X is leaning, hoping to glean some sort of insider information with which to take to his buddies to seem like he is “in the know.”
The proliferation of Social Media has allowed each and every one of us an opportunity to interact with our favorite players on a personal basis. Whether we choose to use it for that purpose, nefarious or good natured, is entirely up to us. The ability is there. The recruits often welcome the attention, eager to see how many followers they can amass from different fan bases. Yet we, as adults, can choose NOT to engage them on any level if we so choose.
We, as fans, shouldn’t be concerned if a recruit takes an official visit to a school not our own. We should not care one whit if they choose to commit to our rivals. Furthermore, we should NEVER take to Social Media to berate, hate, and threaten a high school student for ANYTHING recruiting related. This is not your choice, it is theirs. It doesn’t matter that they “asked for it” by creating and publicizing a Twitter account or Facebook page. We’re adults. We are supposed to be smarter than that.
In this age of Social Media and recruiting, it’s about damn time we ALL started acting like it.