Ok, first of all, this is a topic that pretty much ticks me off. For obvious and some not-so-obvious reasons.
All I have been hearing lately is about how bad this whole internet recruiting thing is. How it is a haven for unsubstantiated information, unqualified opinions and how the information is about as reliable as a politician saying, "I promise". You know what? That's true. Yep, that's true, but not about every single site.
What I can't stand are the idiots that go off on these tangents about how bad it all is when they are talking maybe about one or two sites they have had experiences with and judged all to be equally inept or lacking in credibility. That goes back to the old issue of stereotyping.
Site "A" will put anything up because they want to be first no matter if it's right or wrong and site "B", they won't put just anything up, but they are never first, hence they are not as popular. That make any sense to you? It should, because that's is how the internet is built, but before you start staying how wrong that is, look around you. That's how the rest of the media is built as well.
Face it folks. These days, credibility doesn't sell. You think the L.A. Times outsells the National Enquirer? You think that U.S. News outsells People magazine? It's about big headlines, big news and whether it is or not, well, that's not really the issue, because that doesn't sell. So, you end up with the internet looking just like much of what you see national media resort to and all of a sudden, the internet is this terrible thing? Come on.
I will tell you what has coaches ticked off and it's a point and counterpoint issue.
Here's where they have a beef:
Schools nowadays have been forced to jump on the bandwagon along with everyone else in regards to looking around on the internet for recruiting information. No, they don't need to see what someone else thinks about a player, but it doesn't hurt to know what that player thinks at that moment in time. What do they like, not like or why are they leaning a certain direction? Anyway a school can get into the recruit's head and find out what makes them tick, that's just an edge they don't want to give up to the other guy.
So, they sign on and what ticks them off is if they read something and think, ok, that's what we need to focus on or that's the angle we need to take and come to find out, the information they found out was completely wrong. Heck, that player wasn't even interested in them, that site only said that so people would buy a subscription.
With the cost of recruiting kids nowadays, every single effort at recruiting each and every player is big money, big personal involvement and it's a big pain in the butt when they follow information finding out it was not even close to accurate.
Another beef they have is that recruits are reading these sites as well and based on what these unregulated message boards say or don't say, that could have an affect on what that recruit does. Yeah, it does have an affect. So, if you are a coach of a school that wants this kid and all you see on this board that unofficially represents your site is one post after another dogging the kid or saying someone is much better, you get a little miffed, because what if that particular recruit reads that post where someone said they knew what the coaches were thinking and thought this kid wasn't that good in the first place.
Whether by intent or not, a board that supposedly just reports on recruiting has just influenced the whole process and ironically enough, it's by people that their only involvement in the process is as fans. When you are a coach and you want a recruit, there needs to be a focused message from you to them with as few outside influences saying otherwise. And, the last thing you need is some site, spreading a bunch of rumors and information that simply isn't true, clouding that message or outright contradicting it and any recruit asking you about it.
I can't tell you how much of a pain in the butt it is having to track down one rumor after another, but if someone asks, that's what I do, because they want to know. Well, each coach will find themselves more and more, answering questions like, "So, I was looking on this site and they said this and that's not what you said..........", so you can see why they aren't happy.
Here's the counterpoint:
Most of these coaches are ticked because this star recruit that nobody has ever heard of has now become a household name because of the internet. Their prized diamond in the ruff isn't "in the ruff" anymore. These days, schools can keep some kids out of the limelight, but chances are, if a big time school is recruiting them, someone is going to find out and wham, straight to the internet it goes. You know what? Big deal. So, they have to work a little harder. They are also working a little less.
Like I said before, this internet recruiting gives them an inside look into the recruit's head without making a call, a visit or getting a response via e-mail. When they aren't allowed contact, it's no big deal, because they just take a look around the net and there you go, a world of insight as to what that player thinks, who he likes and why. Never have these schools had such an opportunity to know so much without spending a few grand to take visits, pick up the phones or get on planes. Now, they just look on the internet and they can even find out about players that they might not have heard of, all of a sudden interested in their school.
Another point and this is perhaps the biggest one, schools actually have to behave themselves nowadays. Yeah, the Albert Means of the world should start becoming even more rare by the year, because schools can't sniff at a big time recruit and not have everything that happened in that one inhale, sprawled all over the internet the next day.
They actually have to watch what they say and do and honestly, I think that's the biggest beef most schools have.
Before the internet, how in the world did we know Oregon or whoever was badmouthing whoever? We didn't. The only people that knew were the schools involved or maybe a reporter that called because they had heard this player had committed. Heck, not even the local media cared about who was being recruited or who committed until it was all said and done. Well, that is until the internet recruiting business started.
What this all boils down to as well in my estimation is coaches are ticked because this secret business of recruiting where they knew who they were after, but nobody else did, well that's over. They can't just go through the whole process knowing that 4 or 5 guys won't get a sniff from anyone else, because nobody else knows about them.
If you got a leak in your football program, it's going to find the internet.
Is it our fault? No. What is our fault is if the information we provide isn't accurate. However, credibility isn't real high on the list of priorities for subscribers. They may say it is, but in all actuality, they want to think it's news, so put it in big headlines, talk about it as if it's a big deal and whether it is or isn't in the end, those subscribers will think they got their money's worth.
Welcome to mainstream media on the internet.
The whole issue here is, is that as HuskerConnection, we are perceived to be some sort of representative of the University, even though we aren't. The perception here is that we know something about the Huskers that others don't. Well, sometimes we do, but that's our job. But, our main job is to cover recruiting. I didn't say we talk to Nebraska, talk to recruits and then, report on everything we know. We cover recruiting.
My guess is that when someone from a university looks on a site with their name on it, what is bound to really get them going is when they see these message boards floating one post after another, with one person after another saying that without a doubt, take it to the bank, NU is doing this or that. They are experts and based on information from "unnamed sources", they can say unequivocally, Such and such school is offering this many ships, looking at such and such players and basically talking as if they ARE that school.
They aren't, but when someone talks so confidently and any recruit happens by and looks, that information can be taken as gospel, leading to "So, I was looking on this site and they said this and that's not what you said..........".
It's a conundrum. One which will not find a solution anytime soon. You aren't getting rid of the internet, but you are also not getting rid of those that know how you attract a lot of people. What coaches are now forced to do is take a big deep breath and become what they begat.
You see, coaches will tell you they don't read the papers. They will tell you that because of what the media has become, it just doesn't interest them anymore. Now, they don't have a choice and the internet is unfortunately becoming a fine representative of the printed publications that sponsor sensationalism over facts.
Do I like it? Heck, no. I get lambasted as not being credible when such and such site representing a school I have never even heard of prints nothing but lies. I get pigeonholed because someone else takes the "popular" way instead of the way it's supposed to be done.
Guess what? I have to live with it, the consumers have to live with it and the coaches will have to live with it. At one point, there may have been a time where someone could have exuded some sort of control on the internet, regulating it at least in some aspect. That's gone. What you have now is everyone signing on, everyone doing their own thing and the average passer-by trying to take everything with a grain of salt.
Yes, the coaches have a beef and yes, the consumers have a beef, but let me tell you something. You think it's bad being that coach or that consumer, trying being that site or any site for that matter that actually relies on it's credibility to make money.
And it's never going to get better, but all the internet has done is grow up. It's all grown up and now, it looks just like some of those national publications you scoff at as you are waiting to pay for your groceries.
What you have to do now is what you have had to do when it comes to everything else, you make a choice. You buy this or that, you read this or that and decide for yourself who's right or wrong. There's always going to be the issue with team sites mis-representing the teams they profess to promote, but I would argue that you (as a coach) don't want recruits reading an article in the local paper that basically said you were inept for such and such decision.
If it works for you, you love it and it not, well, there ya go. That final belief on the internet is basically the belief you should have on everything else. If you like a magazine, buy it. If not, leave it there, but don't complain to me that it's on the rack.
I do my job and believe in the job I do. Others do the same. As much as coaches think they don't deserve the lack of credibility from the internet, some on the internet have more of a beef than they do, because they just got dogged because someone else's information turned out to be wrong.
That's not the internet.
Let's move on.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619