Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post OMG! No more txting 4 U!

Wednesday April 18, 2007

The NCAA’s tomes governing permissible contact between a prospect and a coach have been behind the technological curve. Traditional methods of contact such as phone calls or face-to-face meetings have been successfully regulated. Even e-mails and faxes have been regulated to some extent. But coaches have found loopholes in the rules and can send (and receive) text messages with the frequency of a sugared-up pre-teen. Isn’t that right, Coach Nutt? Most coaches, whether they admit it or not, can work a Blackberry in their sleep now. Let’s not put all of this on coaches – you’d be amazed how many text conversations are initiated by the prospects.

For the coach, the technology is a mixed blessing. You have the ability to contact your prized prospects at any time with brief, casual messages using the kids’ prefered method of communication. But that same ease of communication applies to your competition. You don’t want to be second to congratulate the guy (or girl) on a great game, and the immediate access means that you are tethered to the technology lest your rival develop an advantage. Some prospects live for the constant attention, but most find it intrusive.

With all that in mind, the NCAA Division I management council has recommended "a ban on all electronically transmitted correspondence, including text messages, between coaches and recruits." E-mails and faxes would be exempt because they are covered under existing guidelines. The NCAA intentionally used the broad brush of "all electronically transmitted correspondence" in order to cover the pace of technological change that can adapt faster than the ability to regulate it. "The reality is that it does keep us a little bit ahead of the curve, for now," said committee chair Kate Hickey.

Coaches naturally are concerned that the ban would eliminate a channel of communication that is familiar to the prospects and their families. Kids communicate through text messages, and being able to relate to how they communicate goes a long way for a coach. Many kids have given up e-mail entirely. I think most coaches though will secretly breathe a sigh of relief – you can’t put the genie back in the lamp, but they might at least get some sleep now.

The AP article is correct that enforcement of the ban will be challenging. I imagine that if anyone gets busted it will be because some annoyed prospect turns in a coach who won’t leave him alone.

The NCAA will decide the fate of the ban at its April 26 Board of Directors meeting. If adopted, the ban would take effect in August.

It’s worth noting the other proposed rules change in that article. Currently, student-athletes may not try out for a professional team if they are enrolled. This seems absurd. We’re trying to graduate student-athletes, but we force those with professional aspirations to drop out of classes for what amounts to a job interview. In a wise change, the committee passed a recommendation "that would allow athletes to receive money from pro teams to make a 48-hour trip. Or they could also pay the bill themselves and not be bound by the time limit." The only gotcha, which seems fair, is that the kid would not be allowed to miss class for the tryout. Adopting this change seems even more important to me than the text message ban.

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