The internet and recruiting: Kids read it all

YOU SEE IT debated by passionate Cougar fans all the time – does what people say on the message boards really influence recruiting all that much? Washington State defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Chris Ball has an opinion on the matter.

One school of thought expressed by a segment of fans: What they say on the forums has little to no bearing on a recruit's decision, that prospective recruits just don't base their choice of college on what they, under anonymous user names, are saying about the program.

Chris Ball disagrees.

"Fans have got to understand that's what kids are looking at," said Ball. "They're not dumb, and kids are wired into all of it. They're going to do their research and it affects us."

Ball's not saying there shouldn't be critical comments. And he especially understands the frustrations of fans over the last three years when looking at WSU's record.

But, he says, the simple fact remains -- schools with tons of support from the fans, both on campus and in cyberspace, have a leg up in recruiting over those who do not.

"If people can stay with us and be positive," said Ball. "It's getting better and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have a great, great product here at Washington State -- but we need everybody in the boat."

There's also an inherent irony when it comes to fans. The argument can be made that when players need the fans' support the most, that's often the time when fans offer their most scathing and negative comments.

"We need support and for people to believe -- the more people are running around the town and on the internet pointing out the good things, the more that helps us," said Ball.

The most over-the-top, negative comments expressed by fans generally comes immediately after a loss. Some fans, even ones who made positive comments for three and half quarters when the outcome was in doubt, do a quick 180-degree turn once the clock hits zeros and a loss is the result. Ball understands that, too. He said he only hopes the commentary remains reasonable, and that fans also don't forget the positives.

"Otherwise, it's just another fire we've got to try and put out. It becomes just one more obstacle we have to try and overcome," said Ball.

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