The retweeting is on.
Under new NCAA rules that went into effect early Monday morning, college football coaches are allowed to retweet, like, share, repost or otherwise approve the social media activity of a recruit. They are not allowed to comment, tag or retweet with comments.
As the clock ticked down to midnight in each time zone, it was clear the coaches – or whomever is running the Twitter accounts of the coaches – were ready.
By sunrise Monday morning, Tennessee coach Butch Jones’ account had retweeted more than 100 recruit tweets and Vols receivers coach Zach Azzanni logged another 100. TCU noted that coach Gary Patterson was in the office Sunday night and he was retweeting. Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck, Miami’s Mark Richt and Nebraska’s Mike Riley were among the early retweeters.
At one point, a California high school football coach tweeted, “I wonder if Gary Patterson will RT this?!” Answer: Yep.
Patterson was in the office working on practice plans and was all set up at 11:45 p.m. He began at midnight and said he was in bed by 1:30 a.m.
“I knew I could be different because there were not going to be many head coaches doing it,” said Patterson, among a handful of FBS coaches who run their own Twitter feed. “(Sunday) night was fun because it was the first night. A lot of kids that were up late last night were waiting for them. To me, it’s valuable because of that. Those kids know they matter to us.”
Schools were using the Twitter accounts of head coaches, the program and assistants to retweet, like and repost. The hashtag that has been associated with the new rules is #ClickDontType” as a means to help those involved better understand the guidelines.
About 30 minutes after the rule took effect, Nebraska director of player personnel Ryan Gunderson tweeted: “Hope the NCAA is enjoying this madness, #ClickDontType.” Unrelated to Gunderson’s frustration, his boss — Riley — was among the more savvy coaches on social media in the early hours.
While the new rule will mean additional duties for coaches and football staffs, Patterson expressed concern for the recruits.
“For the kids who care about those kinds of things, I guess it will be good for them,” Patterson said. “But it’s lots of noise when you have 40 schools recruiting you. … A lot of people who follow me weren’t real happy with me tweeting that many things …
“I don’t know if it is or not (a good thing). It’s not going to be a lot of bother to us as it to the young people. Will a young man truly pick the school that’s the best for him, that fits academically and fits him football-wise or who does the best marketing?”
Fleck said the advice he gave to his assistants was don’t overdo it.
“Just like anything when there is a rule, there’s going to be people who take it to the extreme,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “Some kids might like it and might pick a school because a coach retweets them 1,000 times. There’s also players who say that’s not why they’re picking our school.”
The onset of the rule corresponded to the first day that seniors-to-be are allowed to receive written scholarship. Given the lengths schools go to with the presentation of the offers – Nebraska’s golden ticket, for example – coaches also were retweeting players who posted their offers.
Perhaps Auburn offensive line coach Herb Hand had the best “hot take” on the new rule, as he described it.
“I like to post about topics of interest like my family, motivational quotes or video, food, Auburn University, our program and our players,” he tweeted. “I like to keep my timeline clean and tight. I may RT something that you post, I may not. Don’t take it personal.”
But in an era when recruits often cite which schools showed them the most love in recruiting and who was with them from the start, convincing kids not to measure their value to a program by how many times their tweets are liked could be difficult.
“Most athletes pay attention to that,” said JaCoby Stevens, from Oakland (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) who is ranked as the nation’s No. 2 safety recruit. “I know us guys love to see picture edits and now we can get a little attention on Twitter through a RT and a favorite.”
Stevens said he has not noticed a difference yet, although he said that might be because he plans to make his decision Aug. 8 and has narrowed his list.
Cam Akers, ranked as the No. 2 running back in the nation, said he’s seen a lot of activity on his Twitter feed since Sunday night.
“A lot of coaches have retweeted things,” said the uncommitted Akers, who is from Clinton, Miss. “I agree with the new rule. I don’t think it’s a problem at all.”
Among the restrictions: Schools can’t tag or mention a recruit’s social media account in a post or picture of its own, comment on a facility used by a recruit or share a post by a scouting or recruiting service about a recruit. Coaches can’t retweet recruits while on official visits. Coaches cannot comment on a recruit’s tweet but can comment in their own post as long as they wait a minimum of a minute.
Coaches also can retweet news accounts of recruits. On Day 1, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin tweeted a story about how the state of Tennessee is rich in recruits but many are leaving the state.
Direct messages rules remain as they have been. Communication is not permitted until Sept. 1 of the junior year for football and all other sports and June following sophomore year for men’s basketball.
“I don’t think it changes much, but it’s cool,” said Florida quarterback commit Jake Allen from St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale). “(What it means) depends on the type of person you are. I couldn’t care less if a coach is gonna retweet or like my tweet. But for some it may affect them differently.”
With coaches not running their own accounts, the decision to favorite or like could be left to staff members or interns who might not make the same decisions that coaches would make.
It also allows coaches to publicly acknowledge when a player has received an offer or made a campus visit when previously those were essentially open secrets. The player tweets that he got the offer or where he is and the coach retweets, essentially confirming it.
Patterson said the effects of the rule change won’t be known immediately.
“It’s like what I said whenever we changed conferences, you have to wait two years,” he said. “It will be interesting to see the game plan the different schools will use. It’s a new rule change. We’ll see how it’s working, what the problems are. Just like the satellite camps. We’re going to have to tweak something or streamline the tweeting or determine what the goods and bads are and go from there.”