The digital invasion is expected to hit Big Bend area recruits, particularly in football and basketball, this summer.
That’s when the NCAA’s so-called “de-regulation” of some recruiting rules becomes official. What was once a fairly structured process for when and how often a college coach can make contact with a prospect — either by phone call, text message or through social media networks — is now wide open.
The NCAA’s Board of Directors approved last month changes that would allow unlimited texts and social-media interactions with recruits beginning Aug. 1.
Local coaches see both positives and negatives from the new rules.
“The more contact there is, the better the relationship between coach and player,” Rickards football coach Quintin Lewis said. “It helps a young man decide where he wants to go to school.
“Coaches can get a better feel for what these young men are like. They can find out what their interests are. I think it’s a positive.”
Chiles football coach Mike Lassiter also sees positives from the rule changes. He pointed out that it will allow prospects a better chance to interact with college coaches to find out more about the recruiting process.
“I think it’s good for our kids,” Lassiter said. “When a coach talks to you, you can find out exactly what he’s talking about. I had a kid who was in conversations with a school up north and he thought he was being offered a scholarship.
“We talked to him about asking if they wanted him to visit and if they have actually offered a scholarship. Those are the things you have to look for. So if a kid can ask these questions, it’s good for them to stay in contact with these coaches so they don’t have to wonder about where they fit in.”
Lassiter said he was concerned with the volume of text messages and social-media interactions and how that might paint an unrealistic picture for high school players.
“I worry about kids feeling like it’s more than what it is,” Lassiter said. “A kid can get unlimited text messages and they may always be getting stuff sent to them. They may think that they are at the top of some school’s board. The reality is these schools are sending messages out to a lot of players.”
As part of the de-regulation of the recruiting rules, the larger colleges are already increasing their staffing to set up what basically amounts to a scouting department.
“The big schools like Florida State will have four or five or six people in there texting kids all day long,” Lewis said. “Where a school like Florida A&M may not have the manpower to do that. It helps the bigger schools. It will help their recruiting a lot.”
As Lewis said, the big-money schools will continue to hold a significant recruiting advantage over lower-level programs.
“That’s the only downfall of it that I see,” Lewis said. “It’s not an even playing field. They tried so hard to make it an even playing field for years and now they’ve given the bigger schools the upper hand. The bigger schools can travel more. They can visit more. This will hurt the smaller schools like Florida A&M or Bethune-Cookman who don’t have the same resources.”
Both Lewis and Lassiter acknowledged one other potential negative to the new rules: The cost associated with receiving text messages.
“Especially if you’re talking about a kid who is on a pre-paid phone,” Lassiter said. “He gets hit with these charges and he isn’t able to use his phone to catch a ride home from school. It could be as simple as that.
“But, you know, cell-phone use at school — it’s so infiltrated into everything we do that it’s hard to limit it. It used to be that not every kid had a smart phone. Now they have them so much that even teachers will tell kids to take out their phone or smart device in class to look something up. I don’t know how we can back off of it any more.”
Gavin earns All-American honors
Speaking of recruits who will most certainly be flooded with text messages from college recruiters, Wakulla High receiver Keith Gavin was one of 16 players to earn a spot on the MaxPreps Freshman All-American team for offense.
Gavin, listed at 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds, caught 20 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns for the War Eagles last fall.
Gavin, who also played defensive back, is one of three Floridians on the offense, joining Naples receiver Tyler Byrd and Ocala Trinity Catholic tight end Jordan Woods.
Kurgatt off to Seattle for race
Maclay senior runner Stefani Kurgatt, who signed with Georgetown on Wednesday, is headed to Seattle, Wash., this weekend for the 2013 Brooks PR Invitational.
The meet features the top eight prep runners nationally for events at the Dempsey Indoor Track at the University of Washington. Kurgatt, recovered from a leg injury that kept her out of the cross country season last fall, will run the 800 meters.
“I really don’t have a time in mind,” Kurgatt said. “I am just excited to race against the fastest girls in the nation, and I know that will help me get a good time.”