Bill Curry spent only a decade away from coaching. But when Curry returned to coach Georgia State in 2008, in some ways it felt like it had been a century.
“I didn’t know doodly-squat about Facebook and Twitter,” the former Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky coach said.
Then Curry discovered that any one of his recruits could be reached at any time through social media. The next day, Curry had a Facebook page. Soon after that, a Twitter handle.”Those things have affected recruiting enormously,” said Curry, known on Twitter as @coachbillcurry. “You better be conversant with how to use it.”
Social media has irreversibly transformed how recruiting works in college football. For coaches, it’s another medium to contact, recruit and gather information about players. For players, it’s a way to get recruited, control the message and interact with fans and other recruits at unprecedented levels.
“We are very involved with Facebook,” said North Carolina coach Larry Fedora. “We are constantly messaging kids.”
The NCAA limits how many phone calls coaches can make to recruits. Text messaging is banned altogether. Social media, meanwhile, is far less regulated.
Coaches can’t write on a recruit’s Facebook wall or instant message him, but are free to send private messages during contact periods. On Twitter, coaches can’t publicly mention recruits, but they are allowed to send direct messages.
As a result, social media messaging has become the en-vogue method of communication between coaches and the players they recruit. Often, recruits even have Facebook and Twitter messages sent directly to their smartphones in the form of a text, one reason why there’s an ongoing push to relax the rules on text messaging.
Social media “is an incredible tool,” said former Stanford assistant Brian Polian, now tight ends coach at Texas A&M. “If you are not using it, you will fall way behind.”
Through social media, coaches can learn who else is pursuing their recruits by whom they “friend” and “follow.” It can also give them useful information on how to best recruit those players.
“Some guys that come on an official visit, they want to go see the town,” Curry said. “Others want to go to an F.C.A. meeting. You need to know which is which.”
Florida coach Will Muschamp said social media also provides another glimpse into a player’s character, warning that “kids need to understand that they have to be very careful about what they do on social media.”
Cornerback Yuri Wright found this out the hard way. Wright, No. 40 in the ESPNU 150, was kicked out of Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., last week after several sexually graphic and racially explicit posts appeared on his Twitter account.