Those unlimited talk and text plans offered by Verizon, Sprint and other cell-phone carriers will soon become a godsend in Division-I men’s college basketball recruiting.
Ready or not, here comes greatly expanded coach-to-player contact beginning Friday, with the NCAA approving unrestricted, infinite calls and text messages to prospects who have completed their sophomore year of high school. Private, but not public, messages on Facebook and Twitter also are permitted.
The change marks a watershed moment for a sport which has never allowed texting, and previously limited coaches to one phone call per recruit per month up until Aug. 1 after his junior year and two calls per month during his senior year, according to SportsIllustrated.com.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, speaking before Wednesday’s Scott County I-Club dinner at Davenport Country Club, approves of the move.
“I just like the ability to not have to record everything that we do, and hope we didn’t miss or forget someone or go over by mistake,” McCaffery said. “It’s so much more convenient. Eventually, the players will manage it.”
Well-versed in texting himself, McCaffery won’t drastically alter his recruiting approach, built on personal interactions and not necessarily a slew of wooing texts.
“I’ve got to be able to develop a relationship with the prospect, with his parents, with his coach, with his AAU coach,” McCaffery said. “And they’ve got to develop a trust in me.”
McCaffery hasn’t changed his style in the social media age, leaving that to his staff. Assistant coach Andrew Francis is particularly active on Twitter in and out of season, with more than 2,400 followers.
“The reality is social networking is how a lot of kids communicate now. My assistants do a really good job with that,” McCaffery said. “But I’m still old-school. I’ll still call a guy and talk to him or talk to his mom or dad. I want them to know who I am and what my vision is.”
In a sport famous for scrutiny of shady recruiting practices, time will tell how coaches respond to the newly-encouraged wealth of contact.
“Some people may look at it like, ‘I don’t want to be the school that doesn’t call him three times in a day,’” Francis told SI.com on May 29.
“Some schools may think it’s a great idea to say, ‘Well, we’ve got to get this guy on the phone at least three times a day and let him know we’re thinking about him.’ That’s a bit much, in my opinion, but some kids may love it. But after a while, it wears on you.”
Former Orion forward Tanner Williams, who committed to Loyola-Chicago two weeks ago, can empathize with Francis’ caution, noting he was receiving around 30 calls a week his senior year before the floodgates opened.
“I’m definitely glad I didn’t have to deal with that rule, because you just get confused and you don’t remember what you talked to which coach about. It’s hard to have one-on-one relationships,” Williams said.
“Once you get your first couple calls, you’re pumped up, but as it goes on, it’s like, I just want to get this over with.”