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New frontiers in recruiting

Via Women’s Hoops and Off Wing Opinion comes this article from The Oregonian about how modern coaches are recruiting players to their college programs.

Pam Stackhouse spent a recent workday making phone calls, writing letters and sending e-mails lobbying high school basketball stars to consider playing for the University of Kentucky.

But when the women’s basketball assistant coach’s cell phone buzzed at 9 p.m., as she dined at a restaurant, she did not hesitate. She left her friends, sat in the lobby and tapped out a 15-minute text message conversation — “on my phone, click-click-click” — with Kentucky’s top prospect.

Stackhouse’s reasoning was stark: “If I don’t respond, then she’s going to text coach So-and-So at the other university.”

Burgeoning tales of coaches tethered to electronic gadgets have led to an unusual request. This week, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association recommended that the National Collegiate Athletic Association outlaw instant messaging and text messaging in recruiting.

The proposal came after extended discussion, with some coaches questioning why colleagues wanted to further restrict colleges’ already limited access to high school players. The NCAA already regulates face-to-face contacts between coaches and players, and limits coaches’ phone calls and visits.

Yet perhaps as remarkable as the women’s coaches’ debate about technology is that men’s coaches, often on the cutting edge of controversy, have barely addressed the issue.

I gotta say, banning a form of communication like this is sort of like banning certain kinds of campaign contributions. It’ll only work until someone figures out a way around it.

I’m also not sure what the rationale for banning IM contact between players and coaches is. Seems to me that the oversight types ought to be happy with this kind of development, since with IM and email, there’s a (virtual) paper trail to document any instances of recruiting violations. You’d be taking a much greater risk if you were to make an inapproriate promise to a recruit in this fashion since there’s no way at all you can erase your tracks. Heck, if I were an NCAA rules enforcer, I’d encourage this, and I’d push for the ability to do random audits of coaches’ communications with players. I’ll bet that would have a salutary effect.

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  1. Linkmeister says:

    Am I missing something, or just obtuse? How is there a paper trail for IM conversations?

  2. Same way there’s one for email, at least for the most part. If it’s going through an ISP of some kind, there ought to be a record of each transaction.

  3. Linkmeister says:

    Hmm. Well, I suppose I should have thought of that.

    You think there are some servers in Manila and Tokyo just overflowing with political text messages (in the former during election season) and teenagers talking about Hello Kitty (or whatever the latest trend is) in the latter?

  4. Mathwiz says:

    “How is there a paper trail for IM conversations?”

    Same way there’s one for email, at least for the most part. If it’s going through an ISP of some kind, there ought to be a record of each transaction.

    I see a couple of problems with this answer. First, are you sure that all SMS (cellular IM) services record the contents of every message sent through them (they are forbidden to record the contents of voice conversations), not to mention keeping the records long enough to be useful in a potential NCAA investigation, which could be years later? If so, why does the FBI bother with technologies like Carnivore – er, sorry, “DCS1000,” when it’d be so much easier to subpoena the relevant ISP logs instead? And if not, what, in a typical recruiting-violations case, would be the use of merely showing that a conversation occured (a record which, by the way, would also exist for voice)?

    Second, even if SMS providers are keeping long-term copies of their customers’ IM conversations, they aren’t party to any agreement with the NCAA, and there’s no reason to believe they would violate their customers’ privacy without a darn good reason. Verizon, e.g., has gone to court to protect their customers’ privacy, and NCAA investigations aren’t even formal legal proceedings. It’s just bad business; a lot of folks would never again want to use a service that not only spied on them, but also ratted them out to a private entity like the NCAA, once word got out thanks to a high-profile recruiting-violation case.

    Of course, I suppose recruiters could be required to sign a letter giving standing permission to any current or future SMS provider to turn over any records relevant to an ongoing NCAA investigation (sort of a USA “PATRIOT” Act Section 215 for college recruiters, except at least they’d have the option of finding another line of work), but even then, there’s no way the NCAA could request records they don’t know about.

    Seems to me a dishonest recruiter would just stick to voice, or at least get an extra phone or pager under a friend’s or relative’s name, making this potential “benefit” of electronic contacts between recruits and their recruiters highly dubious at best.