Social media & recruiting via Apodaca's eyes

PULLMAN -- Incoming Washington State quarterback Austin Apodaca offers a good illustration of a facet of recruiting – fan interaction with prospects via social media – that has exploded over the last two years. And in the view of some who follow the talent chases closely, the trend is helping turn a sometimes messy process into a messier one.

Not long after receiving his first scholarship offer, from WSU, Apodaca said he was surprised by the sudden attention he was getting from strangers through social media.

"It was weird," said Apodaca, who arrived in Pullman this week to start summer classes and begin voluntary workouts. "Having strangers contact me on Twitter and Facebook was strange.

As more schools entered Apodaca's recruiting orbit, the more communication he received from fans.

"I didn't even know them, and they didn't know me, but they still tried to convince me of all these reasons why ‘their' school was the right fit for me," said Apodaca, who passed for more than 4,000 yards last season at Silver Creek High in Longmont, Colo.

Not long after visiting Washington State, Apodaca verbally committed to play for former head coach Paul Wulff and the Cougars. That shifted the type of social media attention coming his way.

"After committing to Washington State, the amount of attention and support I received from ‘CougNation' was amazing," Apodaca said. "That's certainly one of the benefits of social media."

He said social media has been an interesting aspect to the recruiting process.

"There are a lot of pressures out there due to social media," Apodaca said. "If I could tell high school athletes one thing, it would be follow your heart and don't listen to the outsiders."

Some say social media has completely altered the recruiting process, and not necessarily in good ways. Brandon Huffman, West Regional Recruiting Manager for said the recruitment process for many teens has gotten out of hand.

"The badgering of recruits on Twitter has gotten out of control," Huffman said. "Facebook is even worse."

Huffman said recruiting student athletes on social media is a problem, but the real problem is the hatred toward the teens when they choose the ‘wrong school.'

"When a recruit picks an opposing school, the venom and vitriol spewed at a recruit is borderline harassment," Huffman said. "I could name 10-12 twitter accounts right now that a school's compliance director would have a coronary over."

Barry Bolton,'s managing editor and recruiting analyst, said he didn't truly realize the depth to which social media had crept into the recruiting process until this past January when receiver prospect Kenny Lawler announced that he had narrowed his choices to WSU, Cal (where he wound up signing) and Oregon State.

"A number of our readers were posting updates on Kenny from Twitter, so I went over to his account to check it all out," Bolton said. "What I found there was basically a large lobbying campaign being waged by Cougar and Beaver fans. I have to say my jaw about the hit the ground ... When he ultimately announced for Cal, I went back over to see what people were saying and as near as I could tell it was all well wishes, nothing ugly -- that was nice to see."

Braulio Perez, a long-time correspondent who is now a reporter for the Lynden Tribune, agrees that there are pitfalls to the proliferation, but thinks social media has advantages too.

"For a 17-year-old, being able to get your name and film out to the general public via social media gives you greater exposure," Perez said. "Ultimately, it gives the student the greatest chance at receiving a scholarship offer."

While social media has made the recruiting cycle more stressful, Apodaca says making that decision is an unbelievable feeling.

"Playing football at the Division 1 level has been the ultimate goal for me," Apodaca said. "Committing was one of the proudest moments of my life."

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