The Text Message Debate

Communication between coaches and prospects is an ever evolving process. With so many new ways for recruits and college coaches to get in touch with each other, the question of bringing back text messaging is beginning to be raised.

Over the past week the issue of rules violations has come up as a major topic of discussion in the world of college basketball and basketball recruiting in general. One of the more recent rules to be passed by the NCAA is a ban on text messaging from coaches to recruits. Now the question is does the rule make sense, and is it accomplishing its intended goal?

In the summer of 2007, the NCAA decided to ban text messaging as a part of the recruiting process. While college coaches can still text message high school and AAU coaches as well as prospects who have signed their national letter of intent, to unsigned recruits it is an outright ban.

At the time the theory behind the ban was that phone bills were getting out of control, coaches and prospects were spending too much time using that mode of communication, and that it was simply too aggressive a method of recruiting. Three and a half years later, coaches are beginning to wonder if the ban needs to be lifted.

"It's mind boggling the way technology has advanced and how kids communicate these days," said a high-major assistant coach. "They are always texting and using their cell phones. Texting, it is more of the way they communicate. These kids are never actually on their phones talking."

He continued, "As a coach I can only talk to recruits so often before we have had the same exact conversation 15 times. It just defeats the purpose, and doesn't help at all."

Another high-major assistant echoed those same sentiments while at a tournament during this high school season.

"I am 35 years old, what could I honestly talk to a 16 or 17 year old kid about on the phone three times a week," said the coach.

A low-major assistant agreed that he would like to have text messaging re-instated because quite simply, he doesn't feel kids these days are capable of articulating what they are looking for in a school over the phone.

"I would definitely think that text messaging and instant messaging needs to come back simply for the fact that I don't think kids do a good job of accurately communicating over the phone anymore," said the coach. "You talk to a kid on the phone and he is nervous and they are likely to say anything which leads to them telling you what you want to hear."

He went on, "I am not sure that kids today are capable of telling you what they want over the phone. I think I get my best answers through facebook messages or emails."

One mid-major assistant agrees that facebook is now a more valuable tool than a phone call, but disagrees on the thought of bringing back texting.

"I personally don't want to see texting brought back," said the coach. "With facebook, most of these guys, you can get a hold of them pretty quickly. Most kids are checking their facebook every day, and you can send them a message every day that they are going to get. The texting I think was getting to be too much for coaches and I would imagine recruits. I think it is a good thing it got banned, I hope it stays gone."

When the ban on text messaging went into place, unlimited plans for the service were fairly rare and it meant parents were spending big money on phone bills. Now that isn't quite the case.

For Gary Harris Sr, the father of five-star basketball prospect and high-major football target Gary Harris Jr, he sees no problem with coaches texting his son. However he does feel there needs to be some guidelines in place.

"I think it is an electronic media age, and while I don't know the NCAA rules verbatim, I don't see anything wrong with texting as long as it was limited," said Harris Sr. "I just think with the evolution of technology, the NCAA needs to incorporate it in some way because kids are always on their phones."

For his part Harris Jr. says he would have no problem if coaches were allowed to text him.

"The way it is now is fine, but if they could text that would allow for a better relationship," said the younger Harris.

Still even without the ability to text message kids, coaches have begun to get very creative with ways to contact recruits.

"They hit me on facebook a lot and I get direct messages on twitter," said Harris. "I think it is fine, it doesn't bother me at all. You can answer at your own convenience. I can always kind of put it off and talk to them when I feel like it."

While coaches may be using facebook and twitter even more now than ever to contact recruits, another assistant coach feels that there is an even better way to open the lines of communication between prospect and coaches without causing much of a problem.

"I would say don't allow texting, but give us unlimited phone calls," said the coach. "It is to the point where these kids are on their phones all day every day whether they are in class or not. The kids have caller ID, they can regulate who they want to talk to and who you don't."

Obviously opinions are all over the board when it comes to coaches being able to text message recruits. Some are for it and some are against it and each side makes valid points. The rule will probably be addressed by the NCAA at some point, but until that takes place it will always be a subject of great debate in the coaching community.

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