Coaching socialFARGO — North Dakota State assistant men’s basketball coach Dave Richman was sitting on his porch one night last week working. The job: texting high school recruits who are considering attending NDSU.
By: Jeff Kolpack and Eric Peterson, The Dickinson Press
FARGO — North Dakota State assistant men’s basketball coach Dave Richman was sitting on his porch one night last week working. The job: texting high school recruits who are considering attending NDSU.
If texting on his cell phone was his only job, then every teenager would apply.
But that’s what Richman was doing and thanks to a revised NCAA rule, he doesn’t have to worry about committing an infraction every time he hits the “send” button. Previously limited in their phone frequency, coaches are now allowed unlimited calls and text messages to recruits who have finished their sophomore season in high school.
The stipulation is for men’s basketball only and it encompasses all types of social media like Facebook and Twitter.
“It allows for more communication,” Richman said. “Now when you get a young man on campus, you have a better understanding of who he is and who his family is. Now you’re better able to get the right kids from the start.”
Coaches used to be limited to reaching out to a recruit twice a week, although there were contact periods that didn’t have limits. The old way required Richman, or any coach, to log every call or text to a recruit and then submit it to Colleen Heimstead, NDSU’s associate athletic director in charge of compliance.
“Now it’s free rein, although I still ask them to give me a list of recruits so I know who they’re calling,” she said.
Minnesota State Moorhead head men’s basketball coach Chad Walthall isn’t a “big fan” of the new rule. He said it allows too much access to recruits too early.
“I think it invades some of the privacy kids should have at a very youthful age,” Walthall said. “These are young people. You are talking about 15- and 16-year-olds you are bringing into the fray of unlimited contact.”
NDSU head coach Saul Phillips said he has not heard any stories from his peers — yet anyway — of unlimited calling being overbearing to a recruit.
That’s not his staff’s style anyway, he said, saying they have to judge how many calls or texts would be too much.
Richman, on his porch last week, was in communication with about 10 recruits and was in a texting conversation with a couple.
“At the same time, if we have to go over the top and feed a kid’s ego, that’s not the type of kid we’re looking for,” he said.
Phillips says his staff tells recruits from the start about how often they’ll be in touch. He prefers talking directly on the phone while his assistants do more of the texting.
“The types of kids we’re targeting aren’t the prima donnas looking for 26 texts a day,” Phillips said. “I think we explain right away that we’ll call you when we have something to say that is important to you and we’re not going to wear you out with small things. Those are the kind of kids that we’ve been successful with and fit well within our team.”
Walthall had similar thoughts.
“If I have to send a text message every day to a recruit for him to be interested in our university and our basketball program, I’m probably recruiting the wrong kid,” Walthall said. “I still am a big believer in face-to-face contact and being able to sell a vision. I think text messages are useful at certain moments, certain times.”
Other sports still have a maximum requirement for phone contact. Heimstead said some coaches use recruiting software that automatically logs a call while others manually write every call down.
“Keeping a journal so to speak of their calls,” she said.
Ironically, the old men’s basketball rule is what got former Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson fired four years ago in the most high-profile NCAA case regarding cell phone use. Phillips said there are bigger fish to worry about in college athletics anyway.
“What’s really at issue here?” he said. “Probably the payments of players or extra benefits kids receive. Those are the things that coaches should be fired over; not necessarily that I called three times too many.”