- by Dana Caldwell firstname.lastname@example.org 239-213-6029
- September 2015
FORT MYERS – They’re watching.
When it comes to tweets, recruits better give a hoot.
One of the first things college coaches do when vetting a potential player is monitor their Twitter account. They’re hoping to not find racist, sexist, vulgar or profane posts.
“It’s so big,” said Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball recruiting coordinator Chelsea Lyles. “If a kid is cussing and every other day being negative, you really don’t want to bring that to your program.”
Last year Marymount (Va.) men’s basketball assistant Brandon Chambers summed up the risk in nine words and some numbers.
“Never let a 140 character tweet cost you a $140,000 scholarship,” Chambers tweeted.
There have been some expensive social violations.
Penn State offensive line coach Herb Hand tweeted last year: “Dropped another prospect this AM due to his social media presence … Actually glad I got to see the ‘Real’ person before we offered him.”
And the monitoring doesn’t end with a verbal offer and acceptance. Georgia football coach Mark Richt told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year that he dropped a stubborn player, who already had committed to his program, because of his tweets.
“We told (the kid and) we told his coach we don’t condone that, and he was a guy who was already committed to Georgia,” Richt said. “And he persisted. Well, actually he changed his (Twitter) handle and continued to do that kind of thing thinking we wouldn’t find out. And we found out about it, and we cut him.”
That’s not happened with FGCU’s women’s basketball program, but has it with the men’s basketball program under both Andy Enfield, who’s been at USC since leading the 2013 Sweet 16 run, and current coach Joe Dooley. Early on, before visits.
“We’ve actually stopped recruiting kids in the past because of something they put on Twitter,” longtime FGCU assistant Michael Fly said. “I thought they were really good players, but it was literally that, me going to Coach and saying, ‘Hey, I just want you to see this. This is the kind of kid we’re dealing with.’ And we shut it down because of stuff like that.”
College coaches aren’t just looking for the obvious red flags. They also monitor for signs that a player doesn’t get along with his coaches or teammates. Dreads practice. Hates homework.
“A lot of times what you learn the most is their general attitude about things,” FGCU women’s basketball coach Karl Smesko said. “If everything’s a burden … If they don’t want to get up, don’t want to go to practice, that’s obviously someone you don’t want in your program.”
Tweets can look bad for the coach assigned to his or her recruitment.
“‘You know what, I’m not putting this one in front of the boss,'” Fly said. “Because as an assistant, if you bring a kid to the table, then that kid doesn’t pan out or isn’t a high-character kid, it’s a reflection on you.
“There have been several kids I’ve stopped recruiting or not brought to the table because of stuff they’ve put out there.”
The Rise of Twitter
According to CBS News, Piper Jaffray, an investment bank and assets management firm, did a study last year and found nine of 10 American teenagers use social media.
Twitter is used by 59 percent of them, 14 percent more than use Facebook. Twitter kicked off in 2006, and as of last May reportedly had more than 500 million users, 302 million of them active.
Being on Twitter an awful lot can also raise red flags.
“When are they taking care of their responsibilities?” Lyles said.
Dooley said he has an ace in the hole in 11-year-old son Max, who’s no stranger to Twitter.
“I’ve got an advantage because Max follows a bunch of stuff,” Dooley said. “He told me the other day the guys we’re recruiting haven’t written anything stupid yet, so that made me happy.”
Dooley, 49, said coaches sometimes misread a recruit’s tweet. In that case, if no one on the staff can interpret it clearly, a clarification from the kid is called for.
“If it was really egregious, you don’t follow it up,” Dooley said. “But sometimes it’s something you need to ask because sometimes what they said wasn’t what you thought they meant.”
Other times, there’s no need for interpretation.
“Offensive language, because they know it’s a public deal,” Dooley said. “Anything racist, sexist, those type of things are reasons to stop recruiting the guy.
“I do think, though, in the last couple of years student-athletes have gotten much more savvy and they understand that and they don’t do that as much as they used to.”
They’d better not.
Arkansas football assistant Jemal Singleton tweeted last year while at Oklahoma State.
“Had to unfollow/stop recruiting a young man this evening,” he wrote. “Still amazed by what recruits tweet/retweet/College coaches are watching.”