TAMPA - "Recruiting's kind of like shaving. If you don't do it every day, you look like a bum." - Univ. of Florida head football coach Will Muschamp.
As a Florida Gator alum, I follow the Gators quite a bit -- and I always got a kick out of that quote from coach Muschamp. But that quote rings truer to me each day that I am involved with amateur baseball.
Recruiting remains the lifeline of any college program, in any sport. Regardless if it is football or baseball, coaches are recruiting everyday. But they can only call a player on the phone once per week per NCAA rules - so they find other ways to fill up those other 6 days in their recruiting week.
Social media is one of them.
Why? Because character is who you really are when no one is looking. And if these coaches and scouts can get even the smallest glimpse into who you are when no one is looking - they will know if they have their type of player on their hands or not.
Don't ever forget this one simple concept: college coaching is a profession. Being an MLB Scout is someone's job. It seems like a baseball game, but coaching and scouting is how these baseball people pay their bills and put food on the table for their families. And in sports today, college coaches and scouts are given less leeway to do their jobs then ever. One bad season, or one bad recruiting class can put a Hall-of-Fame coach on the hot seat. Parents and players better believe that these coaches are using every tool possible to determine what type of person they are drafting or recruiting.
Heck, we do it at Prospect Wire. We research players before we accept them into events. We research teams before we accept them into events.
Did you think the Chicago Cubs were going to invest $1 million dollars into you without knowing who you are?
Did you think the University of Texas was going to give you one of their 35 roster spots and $25K+ in scholarship money just based on your radar gun reading and stats?
Did you think the head baseball coach of the University of Illinois was going to put his job on the line over a player just because they play on a good travel team?
Colleges and scouts used to only be able to use academics as their main barometer into what kind of person they were putting their money into. With the growth of social media, these decision-makers have a direct path to becoming a fly-on-the-wall during player's everyday interactions with their buddies and girlfriends.
As a result, true character is being revealed, scholarship money is being decreased, and draft picks are sliding down another round.
As social media dominates today's society, players are Tweeting more and more, Facebooking more and more and Instagramming more and more. And in the process, they are revealing more and more about themselves to colleges and scouts who many times don't even need to be "following" your account under to read what you are writing.
Even doing something totally harmless or legal can be misconstrued. A harmless inside joke between a player and his friend may be taken the wrong way by someone who is just observing from the outside. Even something as simple as quoting your favorite line from a comedy like Anchorman or Wedding Crashers could be taken as a thought of your own.
A few examples we have seen at Prospect Wire:
Player A was a top prospect from an urban, inner city neighborhood. His Facebook account was not set to private, and we saw that he was selling different car rims and jewelry everyday via Facebook. "Contact me for special pricing, just got these." It easily looked like the player was selling stolen car rims. Was he or wasn't he? We don't know for sure, but it didn't look good either way. Maybe his family owned a car shop? All I know is I am thinking twice before I give him a ton of money or put my job on the line.
Player B was a movie junky. Every favorite movie line from a different comedy was being recited on his Twitter. He didn't use quotes, he didn't give credit to who actually said it. It looked like it was his own words. Some of his movie lines were littered with curse words, or spoke about doing drugs, or getting fired from work. Did this player do drugs? We don't know for sure, but it didn't look good either way. It's okay to recite movie quotes, but make sure they don't come off that you approve of the message that it sends.
Player C broke up with his girlfriend and let the world know about it on Twitter with love quotes about beaking up, his mental instability, and lonliness. The player was in a dark place, and again, may have cost himself some scholarship money or an offer. It's okay to be heart-broken, but don't announce it to the world on a public account.
Player D had an inside joke with his friends. One day in class, a student was kicked out of class and called his teacher a "b*%ch" on the way out of the classroom. Some students laughed and continued to joke about it for weeks to come. In an effort to keep the joke going and make his friends laugh, he Tweeted "My teacher is a b*%ch!" It may have been an inside joke, but it didn't appear that way to the college coach who didn't know the whole story.
Colleges and scouts look at it like this: if you can't follow rules and behave yourself when you live with your parents, how are you going to be when you are living on your own?
If the Prospect Wire guys are looking at your social media, you better believe college coaches and scouts are, too.