Decision on Text Messaging Due Today

On Thursday, the college coaching world will learn the fate of the newest proposal from the NCAA. The Division I Board of Directors will meet and make a final decision on the Management Council's recommendation to ban all text messaging between coaches and recruits.

All the details of the text messaging legislation have yet to be worked out, but one thing is for sure, should it pass, coaches will be looking for other methods to contact recruits.

Programs across the country send hundreds of letters a week to potential recruits. With so much mail arriving on the doorsteps of 17- and 18- year old kids, there is no guarantee for coaches that letters are actually read. The most efficient way for coaches to contact recruits is through text messaging, according to the coaches. That's why some members of the American Football Coaches Association disagree with the proposed legislation. At the Gator Gathering in Jacksonville on Monday night, Urban Meyer offered his opinion on the matter.

"We need to learn as much as we can about these players," Meyer said. "All of sudden, you're not allowed to talk to them. A phone call is not good enough, not when your program is on the line."

Recruits across the country have a different opinion, though. The Student Athlete Advisory Committee overwhelmingly supports the legislation. Plus, the legislation was initiated by the Ivy League schools. One of the top linebacker prospects in the country, Crawfordville (Fla.) Wakulla High School's Nigel Bradham agrees and said he won't miss the constant buzzing of his cell phone.

"Every head coach and every coach on the coaching staff is texting you," Bradham said. "You got like four schools texting you a day and they have eight coaches, so you do the math. There is no way I'm returning them."

Bradham said he does the read most of the messages, so the coach's are making successful contact with him, but what about the other prospects? Are they being reached?

If you look at Meyer's track record, it appears text messages do play a big role. After pulling in top recruiting classes during his first two seasons at Florida, his commitment and understanding to the trendy form of communication has paid off. But therein lies the difference.

Some college coaches, specifically older coaches, don't want to embrace the new technologies. They view text messaging as an advantage for the younger couches who understand the nuances of texting better than the old. Not to mention, it is more work and a never-ending process. During Meyer's seven minute interview with the media in Jacksonville on Monday night, he paused to check his BlackBerry.

Meyer contends that he can get to know a prospect better through text messaging. After all, the NCAA has tight guidelines on coaches' personal contact with recruits. During quiet periods, they can only make one phone call to recruits, and during dead periods, they can't talk to recruits at all. Text messaging, however, is considered written correspondence and has no restrictions.

Technology, though, has advanced. Meyer pointed out himself that he can send an email from his BlackBerry to a recruit just as easily as he can text them, and most cell phones can receive emails. The new legislation makes no mention of emails; it only mentions texting. So, has the issue really been resolved?

The other issue that the potential ban brings up is compliance. Phone calls, letters, emails are easy to track. Text messaging is not so easy to trace.

"Getting records of text messages is very difficult, if not impossible," UF's Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Sports Administration Jamie McCloskey said. "Who knows, in the future it may be easier to track, but now it's very difficult to track. If the NCAA places a restriction that you can't do it or you can only do it during certain periods of time, it's going to be difficult to assure compliance with that because it's going to be difficult to get records that can validate that a text message was never sent."

Another potential issue is the legislation only addresses recruits. What about close friends of the recruits? Or family members? Or girl friends? Or best friends? Or high school coaches? Can coaches still text them?

"That's why it gets cumbersome," McCloskey said. "We don't even know what the new technology is tomorrow. What if something else comes out tomorrow that we have to figure out how this is going to apply? If their intent is nothing comes over the phone, than that's the way they should have said it."

Then again, what defines a phone? Is a PDA that does not receive phone calls, but can receive text messages considered in the legislation? The text issue is so broad that unless the NCAA creates a very specific policy, coaches will find the loopholes.

This debate is not going away anytime soon. Instead of tomorrow's scheduled vote ending the debate, it may just be the starting point.

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