Edsall, The Internet has "killed recruiting".

UConn's weekly football luncheon in Storrs on Tuesday was virtually barren of news, outside of coach Randy Edsall saying he will wait until game time Saturday to name either Dennis Brown or D.J. Hernandez the starting quarterback for the Huskies' Big East road game against Pittsburgh. But when the subject of the internet's role in recruiting came up, Edsall was unusually candid and refreshingly expansive

"It's killed recruiting," Edsall said. "It's killed recruiting, in my honest opinion."


Edsall blames recruiting sites --- yes, that includes Scout.com, though he didn't mention it by name ---- that put their own interests ahead of the high school students they claim to be representing.

Edsall thinks high school football players are being misled by these sites, who promise four-star and five-star reviews of the players' talents in exchange for their services in games or exclusive rights to their recruiting news.


He said one recruiting site that hosts its own all-star game promised one recruit it would rank him No. 1 if he played in the game.


"It's ridiculous," Edsall said. "If a kid is interested in 10-12 schools, he's got 10-12 guys calling him that are representing (each) school. So he might be getting 10-12 calls a week from people that aren't even coaches.


"And these kids are supposed to be students in high school? They're spending more time on the telephone doing all those sort of things than they are taking care of business. Some of the kids aren't as fortunate as others. They don't have the structure in their home life that maybe can prevent that.


"When there's people that can have more control over a student-athlete than what the high school coach does, or the parent does, or even a college coach being able to call and talk to them, I think that's wrong."


The recruits are trying to market their skills to the best programs nationwide, and the internet sites have proven all too willing to act as a conduit, though at a price: the players' inflated ego.


"Now what you've done is, you've taken some kids that can't handle publicity and notoriety and created a monster," Edsall said. "Now it's our job when they get here, we've got to de-recruit them. They think they're better than what they really are. I think it's a big-time problem. It's out of control. It's not good for the student-athletes."


It's not doing the coaches and assistant coaches out on the recruiting trail much good either, Edsall said.


Schools are feeding recruiting sites information on players in exchange for the sites putting in a good word on behalf of the schools. Coaches are sending text messages and instant messages to recruits' cell phones and computers as a way of getting around the NCAA's limit of phone calls a coach can make to a player during a recruiting period.


"I hear these people that are sending 100 text messages a week," Edsall said. "I know this: If I'm sending 100 text messages a week, I'm not doing anything else. So you've got other people who are doing it. So there's got to be a whole revamping of the recruiting process because of technology."


If it were up to Edsall and at least some of his colleagues, they would simply turn back the clock to the days when the internet was nothing more than a geek's fantasy.


At an NCAA football coaches meeting last January, the idea of taking the Web out of play in the recruiting game drew staunch support.


"There was a strong sentiment to do away with the internet if we could," Edsall said. "There was a strong sentiment with that. A very strong sentiment."


No action was taken, however, probably because the coaches realized what a huge undertaking it would be to eliminate the internet from recruiting. "That's going to be difficult to do," Edsall said.


He did offer some solutions, though.


"You do away with text messaging," Edsall said. "You do away with the IM. E-mail is different. That's like sending a letter. You know, go back to the way it used to be. You can make one phone call. You can just write notes. And then you can make one phone call when you're supposed to."

Getting advice and support from the NCAA might clean up the situation, Edsall postulated, but college sports' governing body doesn't appear too interested in getting involved, at least as far as Edsall can tell.


"The NCAA seems to want to legislate everything else," Edsall said. "But then all they want to do is point a finger at a coach when something goes wrong with recruiting."

Edsall thinks the NCAA is afraid it will get sued by an internet recruiting site if it imposed legislation limiting the use of the internet, saying it is an unfair restriction of free trade on an open market.


Plan B then would be for the coaches to police themselves and one another.

"That's what has to happen," Edsall said. "People have to turn people in. And then what's going to happen is, they're going to be cited as major violations, not minor violations."

Edsall does realize, however, that cheating will never be eliminated. As it is, coaches now are disposable cell phones and phone cards, as well as calling recruits from home as a way of circumventing the law, Edsall said.


"As soon as a rule is made," Edsall said, "there's always somebody trying to find a loophole to find a way around it."


The Web isn't the only place where corruption is spreading either. College football is a high-stakes game, and more and more people outside the sport are trying to get a piece of the action.


"We're running into the same problem in football as they have in basketball with the AAU coaches," Edsall said. "You have street agents, so to speak --- somebody in that hometown that becomes the guy. Now you've got to go through that person. And people wonder why some of these kids have problems. It's because of this. People are making them larger than life when they're not larger than life."


With the recruiting trail heading off into cyberspace, Edsall has begun to sour on the whole experience of recruiting high school athletes.

"Recruiting," he said, "has just gotten out of hand."


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