The Internet Press and Recruiting

"One of the best sources of 'recruiting intelligence' for college programs today is the internet." So former Michigan assistant recruiting coordinator Mark Ouimet told yours truly. Read what college programs like about the 'internet recruiting industry' -- and what they are leery about. Also read Mark's advice -- and plea -- to the industry.

Mark, how do college programs view the 'internet recruiting industry'?

"One of the best sources of 'recruiting intelligence' for college programs today is the internet. First of all, Everybody is watching it. Colleges have as many as seven staff people working on recruiting, and some of them are assigned to the internet. There are schools that still say, "We don't use the internet" -- but all colleges really do ... a school would be crazy not to use it."

Why do colleges pay attention to the internet?

"For a college staff, recruiting is like the cold war. You know, winning the hearts and minds of recruits. The games are a 'hot war', but recruiting is a cold war. And a big part of a cold war is intelligence. As assistant recruiting coordinator I wanted as much intelligence as I could get on a recruit -- what other visits he was taking including dates, what he was saying about schools in comparison to Michigan, everything actually. And I wanted as much intelligence as I could get on my competitor schools as well -- what their depth charts look like at a position, who else they might be recruiting at that position, and so on. And naturally I wanted to know when a kid committed to another school."

"College recruiters can talk directly to their recruits of course -- once a week after Labor Day. But the information found on the internet is helpful as well -- sometimes moreso than what we get directly from a kid. You know, almost all kids use computers now, so they are following the recruiting scene and are comfortable with it -- you people calling kids know how to put them more at ease than we can. The kids tend to open up more to you guys, and tell you where they are leaning as well as where they are visiting, even about their last game as their season goes on. They are often guarded with their college recruiters, and don't say all that much. Some kids do tell their recruiters too, but another source that can be used to figure out a kid is very helpful."

How did you recruiting people come to use the internet for intelligence?

"It took college programs a while to realize that the internet provided good intelligence, but gradually they came to that realization. There was a case a few years ago here before we learned the value of the internet. There was a recruit -- I won't use names -- who kept telling his Michigan recruiter that he was visiting here on a particular weekend. But I saw the internet reports on him quoting him saying that he's not visiting here -- that he was visiting Notre Dame that weekend. I kept warning our coaches -- and sure enough a couple weeks later he finally told his Michigan recruiter that he was not visiting here."

"There was another case a few years ago where a kid had actually committed to another school, but did not tell us -- he didn't want to give us the bad news I guess. But the commitment was reported on the internet -- and we (Michigan's recruiting staff) said, "Look, this kid has already committed" -- again it was to Notre Dame I believe. But he had a Michigan visit set, and our coaches kept calling and recruiting him. And finally he told us -- so the internet report was true. Gradually we came to realize the value of the internet information."

Are programs leery of the internet as well -- they say they are.

"Well, the thing is, at the same time a football program is using the internet to gather intelligence, it also wants to control the information on their own recruiting. Sometimes, for example, a school wants a commitment 'out there' and sometimes they want it kept quiet for a while. Florida State, for example, is famous for keeping its commitments quiet until signing day, so other kids at the same position won't get scared off. But with the internet it is impossible these days to keep everything a secret."

Has the internet affected how colleges recruit?

"The main thing is, the internet make colleges more careful, more cautious, about what they say to a recruit. More truthful. Why? because what they tell a kid will get out. Other kids know what a college is saying to other kids. So a school better not tell three kids that they are our number one recruit at a position -- because they will find out. A school better not tell a kid that he is the only kid offered at his positon, or that they haven't given out any offers -- unless it is true. Again, because it will get out."

Is there any advice you have for the 'internet recruiting industry'?

"Yes. Colleges depend on reports on our recruits to be accurate. Actually, the internet is pretty accurate -- maybe 80-85%. But every time an inaccurate report comes out it causes us problems. The press should never take advantage of a kid and misquote him -- the kids aren't aware that it's going be used that way of course. The ideal situation is for everyone to report the right information, but it's not always going to happen -- the internet media has some good people and some crazy people. A case comes to mind -- again I won't use names, but you know who I'm talking about. A key recruit at a key position being told he's the only kid offered by us at a position -- which actually is the truth. Then a false report comes out that another kid is offered at that position -- and immediately the first kid's dad reads the report and calls up, upset. All the school can do in that type of situation is reassure the dad and hope he is convinced. Anything reported about a kid regarding Michigan effects the program -- so the reporting needs to be accurate and solid, not overreaching."

"Sometimes a kid or his parent will also try to get you, a Michigan reporter, to report that that this kid has a Michigan offer when he really doesn't. That's in order to get the kid other Big Ten offers -- real ones. You know where that has happened to you, where you've had to resist that pressure. It looks like at least once this year a parent succeeded."

"A big problem with inaccurate reporting on where Michigan stands with a recruit is that other schools will to go the kid and use it against us. They will negative-recruit with the information. So Michigan has to take the time to get back with the kid and try to counter the misinformation. We just have to fight through it, to go in and clarify as best as possible."

"Colleges can't stop the media from taking things out of context or misreporting, but you certainly don't expect or want it from 'your own' press."

Bottom line: do college programs wish the internet wasn't there?

"Some do. But if you ask me, the internet is more helpful than hurtful to schools regarding recruiting -- if the schools have the ability to make use of the information. Of course when Bo was doing his recruiting, control of Michigan's recruiting information was always in his hands. That's just not the world anymore -- but for schools that do a good job processing the intelligence, the internet is a plus more than a minus."

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