For seeming eternity, colleges have always asked fans to avoid contact with Recruits. While many fans have noble intentions, fan involvement can easy escalate into situations with not-so-benign implications. (Hello, SEC bagmen!) The emergence of Facebook and Twitter has made it even easier to contact recruits, which has raised a lot of concerns.
I made this last year, but it will apply for eternity. A flowchart for whether or not you should tweet at recruits. pic.twitter.com/CK6ke7NOyv— Gray Hardison (@BellyoftheBeast) December 17, 2014
Not only is it against NCAA rules, it's actually kind of creepy, when you consider that the targets are under-age minors in high school. (Perspective: Imagine what the reaction would be to thousands of adults trying to contact a high school girl online.) Nebraska has maintained a policy that states that it's not permissible for fans to contact recruits online:
It is important to keep in mind that fans are considered boosters of our Athletics Department because they are involved in promoting our athletics program. As the NCAA rules currently stand, it is not permissible for a fan to have in-person recruiting contact with a prospect or recruiting contact via social media, telephone, text message, or email. All recruiting communication with prospects needs to be done by a member of the coaching staff or other Athletics Department staff members who are permitted to communicate.
That even extends to merely "liking" a Facebook post or Tweet.
The most recent guidance we received regarding this topic states that it would be permissible for fans to follow a prospect on Twitter, but it would not be permissible to make a "friend request" on Facebook, "retweet", "favorite" a Tweet, or "like" a Facebook post made by a prospect.
This week, Nebraska head coach Mike Riley changed the tone of that message. On Tuesday to a group of boosters in Lincoln, Riley talked about the impact fan involvement on social media has had on recruiting at Nebraska.
"But one of the big, big impacts with guys that I'm finding out more and more is all of the support these recruits out there in the world get from all of our fans on social media. It is crazy how our guys respond to that."
Friday, Riley went one step further - perhaps across the line - in an interview with Joe Quinn and Nick Handley on KXSP (590 AM in Omaha).
In response to a question about the whole "Calibraska" phenomenon, Riley said this: (about the 27 minute mark)
"I gotta tell you is absolutely real with the way social media is, these kids that we're recruiting and a lot of them from far away, they understand how much our fans want them. They feel like part of the deal already because you know our fans have made them feel welcome, wanted. And I think that has made an impact on decisions already in recruiting. It is really neat to see. So I just encourage everybody out there, keep helping us that way. "
I listened to the comment many times, and then contacted the athletic department for clarification. An NU spokesperson indicated that Riley was merely thanking the fans for their support of the program, and that it was not intended to be a "call to action" for fans.
Except, of course, Riley did say "keep helping us that way" and that recruits "understand how much our fans want them." According to the athletic department, Nebraska's policy against fans contacting recruits is unchanged. So which is it?
It's certainly safe to retweet and like the coaches responses to commitments and media coverage. (Gratuitous plug: Especially the coverage provided here by our own Brian Towle.) Subtweeting at recruits would also appear to be safe as well. Tweeting directly at recruits? Well, it's still technically not allowed...but (wink wink, nudge nudge) some people might not mind it too much.