Oklahoma's Bob Stoops may have opened the floodgates to one of the nastiest places known to the recruiting trail: the depths of the Internet.
Like it or not, Twitter has become a part of the recruiting process. It has had its good moments and its bad moments. In a recent interview with Carey Murdock of SoonerScoop.com though, Stoops provided us with a moment that, frankly, lacked in judgement:
"That's something that's becoming a part of it," said Stoops when asked if he had concerns about fans contacting recruits on Twitter. "We may hire you to govern our social media with the fans."
Whoa Stoops! You realize I think all of this is stupid right? Stop messing around.
"I'm not kidding," he said. "I don't see it stopping. Once things get rolling, it's not stopping."
So wait a minute: Stoops is just openly telling fans to contact recruits on Twitter? Something even OU's own compliance department frowns upon?
"I'm pretty sure that's what it means," said Stoops. "You hear that OU fans? We have to get on board."
This is bad for a few reasons.
First, believe it or not, fan contact with recruits on Twitter is an NCAA violation.
Why is that? Well, again, believe it or not, fans on Twitter could technically be considered boosters.
Here's the NCAA's rule on the matter:
6.4.2 Representatives of Athletics Interests.
An institution's "responsibility" for the conduct of its intercollegiate athletics program shall include responsibility for the acts of individuals, a corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization when a member of the institution's executive or athletics administration or an athletics department staff member has knowledge or should have knowledge that such an individual, corporate entity or other organization:
(a) Has participated in or is a member of an agency or organization as described in Constitution 6.4.1;
(b) Has made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that institution;
(c) Has been requested by the athletics department staff to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes or is assisting in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;
(d) Has assisted or is assisting in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes; or
(e) Is otherwise involved in promoting the institution's athletics program.
If you don't exactly see how that impacts the average Twitter fan, check out this release from the LSU Athletic Department in 2008 that does a great job of explaining why fans shouldn't interact with recruits, per TigerDroppings.com.
As we begin the 2008-09 academic year, the LSU Athletic Department would like to take this opportunity to remind you that representatives of LSU's athletics interests, or "boosters," are prohibited from engaging in conversations with a prospect, or "recruit." Please be aware that NO written, telephonic or in-person communication is permitted between a recruit and a booster of an NCAA institution regardless of the medium. Please note that anyone who encourages a recruit to attend LSU is automatically considered a booster. Many believe that they are not a booster because they do not contribute financially to the University. However, NCAA rules specify that any individual who assists in the recruitment of prospects is considered a "booster."
By telling Oklahoma fans to "get on board" with the tweeting to recruits phenomenon, Stoops is basically opening Oklahoma up to an NCAA infraction.
Will Oklahoma be punished because of what he said? Probably not, but that could change if thousands of Twitter handles started openly "recruiting" some of Stoops' top targets.
Keeping up with social media and the NCAA rules regarding it can be tough, but as the coach of a nationally renowned program, that's Stoops' responsibility.
For those thinking that he could have been kidding, I reached out to SoonerScoop.com on Twitter and they confirmed that he was being serious about Oklahoma fans following the lead of other programs' fanbases on Twitter:
@AKonSports He was serious about not being able to keep fans from talking to recruits and it only getting more common.— SoonerScoop.com (@SoonerScoop) July 24, 2013
@AKonSports I think his main point was that if others are going to do it, OU fans might as well too.— SoonerScoop.com (@SoonerScoop) July 24, 2013
Not only did Stoops open his program up to trouble, but it may be worse that he basically unleashed the Internet on his potential targets.
These recruits lose out on much of the normal high school experience as it is, but now they've got to worry about hundreds upon thousands of fans tweeting at them, trying to sway their decision?
It's a little bit too much, and that's something that Stoops probably didn't think about in the moment.
Not only that, but unfortunately, there's always going to be bad apples in the group. All it will take is a few over the top lunatics to tweet something profane, inappropriate or just plain nasty at a recruit, and that could give Oklahoma and all of its fans a bad name with said player.
For as much good as the Internet, and specifically social media, has brought us, it has also allowed a space for the low-life, immature losers of the interweb to reach out to recruits and voice their oftentimes ignorant opinions.
Even worse, it has given these users the ability to represent their school of choice.
It's not fair to Oklahoma, the Sooners' coaching staff or the thousands of normal fans out there, but that's just how social media works. One outlier can define a whole group's reputation, and that's what Stoops mostly overlooked in his comments to SoonerScoop.
He basically gave the "goon squad" permission to tweet at recruits. Not only is that technically an NCAA violation, but he could have unintentionally "sanctioned" some unruly Twitter behavior.
Stoops has got to know better.