Twitter can be a wonderful tool. It can provide insight into many worlds like never before.
When it comes to following a college football team's recruits, it can be especially fascinating. Prior to Twitter, the only real view fans had with recruits were through newspapers, recruiting magazines and websites. Beyond that, it was mostly just word of mouth.
Twitter has changed that.
Fans not only have an inside look into a recruit's life, but also a direct line to communicate. However, following and interacting with a recruit is an NCAA violation, according to Utah State's compliance department.
Tweet responsibly. Fans please don't retweet or tweet at prospects. It's an NCAA violation. #AskBeforeYouAct— USU Compliance (@USUCompliance) January 8, 2014
That doesn't stop fans.
Instead, fans use the social media site to welcome recruits and interact with them. They share their excitement over the commitment to their program of choice. As long as a recruit stays committed, there are no major problems.
However, things take a sudden turn for the worst when a recruit changes his mind.
Jeremy Crabtree of ESPN recently shared the example of Notre Dame commit Tyler Luatua. The tight end faced a lot of backlash from a group of USC fans after committing to Notre Dame instead. This came on the heels of plenty of love from the Trojan fan base prior to his decision.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was upfront with ESPN's Crabtree on the effect fans and social media have on recruits:
All those outside influences, I don't think any of us are comfortable with that. They're getting a lot of people breathing down their necks and putting undue pressure on them and sending them the wrong messages about your program. They have enough pressure on them from the coaches. They don't need some guy with a computer or cell phone stalking them.
Luatua's situation is not unique. In fact, a similar situation played out on Twitter between former Nebraska recruit Terrell Clinkscales and Husker fans.
Since his commitment to Nebraska in December, Clinkscales' mentions have been filled with excitement. Husker fans shared their joy over the defensive tackle's decision.
@TerrellClink92 Beast mode 92 in Husker red this fall Go Big Red Blackshirts— Thomas Adams (@tboneadams24) January 17, 2014
It was a happy time on Twitter. But things change.
With national signing day quickly approaching, Clinkscales made the decision that the Huskers weren't for him.
In life you have to do what's best for you. I'm officially decommitting I will be attending Kstate next year I have to go where the love is— Terrell Clinkscales (@TerrellClink92) January 19, 2014
After tweeting that he had switched his commitment to Kansas State, a small number of Nebraska fans took to Twitter to share their frustration. In many instances, those tweets became direct insults on Clinkscales. Inappropriate language and photos were also included.
@TerrellClink92 we showed you love from DAY ONE. You don't deserve to be a blackshirt anyway.— Deion Hulse (@DeionHulse) January 19, 2014
Some fans grew frustrated with Clinkscales as he retweeted each insult as it arrived. Many felt he was provoking Nebraska fans. That point could be argued.
@TerrellClink92 you're just being a hypocrite by retweeting the hate about me, I figured a big football player could take Criticism— Hilarious Steve (@iLikeSkunksDaly) January 20, 2014
However, it wouldn't be an argument worth having.
After all, tweeting at a recruit is technically an NCAA violation. Beyond that, it's just unnecessary to use the platform in such a way. Even if fans feel a recruit is antagonizing them, it doesn't mean it's acceptable to respond inappropriately.
Instead, it shows the dark sides of Twitter and recruiting. While it provides an inside look like never before, it also opens up a giant can of worms.
Social media isn't going anywhere. Athletic departments will continue to monitor these instances and do their best to prevent them. However, it's likely to be an issue as long as recruiting and Twitter co-exist.
It is important to remember that the negative tweets are not representative of an entire fan base. In the instance of Luatua, plenty of USC fans extended warm wishes after his decision was made.
Nebraska fans did the same for Clinkscales. In the midst of the negative comments, a larger group of Huskers reached out to apologize on behalf of the minority. While disappointed, a majority of Nebraska's fan base truly wished the best for Clinkscales. While they would have rather seen him in scarlet and cream, they're simply happy for the defensive tackle regardless of where he plays football.
Even current Nebraska players weighed in on the situation.
Fans gotta chill. Best of luck to @TerrellClink92, woulda loved to ball with you bruh.— Vincent Valentine Jr (@TheRealVRVJ) January 19, 2014
Since the initial Twitter backlash, Clinkscales has begun retweeting the positive messages from Husker fans. As each new one comes across his timeline, it highlights a much bigger and brighter spot of the University of Nebraska.
It almost feels as if it all came full circle.
With national signing day only a couple of weeks away, this Twitter frenzy around decommitments is likely to take place again. It won't be an issue only Nebraska faces. Many programs will be forced to deal with it as the days go by.
Twitter has provided an opportunity for fans to get to know recruits like never before. Unfortunately, the power that comes with that opportunity can often be misused.
In short, it can become quite a vicious cycle.