In the modern era of college football recruiting, it's imperative for coaches to build a sense of familiarity early during a prospect's process. NCAA restrictions and "dead periods" can impede that progress, but technological developments have opened new lines of communication and information, including Twitter and Facebook.
Rutgers is getting into the app game.
The Scarlet Knights unveiled a prospect-oriented program that runs on Apple mobile devices. It should have significant appeal to fans, but future recruits are the primary target.
"I can’t send a pre-(high school) junior a video. I can’t mail them a video. Really, before their junior year we can’t even email them links," Rutgers' director of branding and social media Drew Robinson told Star-Ledger reporter Tom Luicci. "So this is a way to get information out about the football program in a video content format."
It may not be an in-home visit, but the app provides a way for high school underclassmen to develop a personal understanding of the program by simply exploring on their phone. Interactive elements, video and multimedia content are literally at their fingertips.
The app will also feature promotional information, specifically camp brochures, according to Luicci. Expect Rutgers to produce a steady stream of video packages to keep users engaged and content fresh.
Head coach Kyle Flood and the Scarlet Knights transition into the Big Ten in 2014, representing a significant leap in competition and national exposure. The program aims to set itself apart as the first team to use this technology directly as a recruiting tool.
"Statistics and studies show kids want content in the palm of their hands, through their iPad, iPhone, whatever," Robinson said. "This is a way to deliver that and to promote Rutgers football."
It's hard to argue with the logic.
High school students are more actively engaged on social media than ever. If you've been to a shopping mall lately, you may have noticed a significant portion of the teenagers staring straight down at their phones while walking aimlessly.
As a society, we're rather attached to our mobile devices, and that's never been truer than with this latest generation. That extends into the way receive college football information.
The recruiting trail has trickled into a variety of platforms that feature fans, coaches and prospects communicating under the same technological umbrella. It's a constant exchange of opinions and insight, some more refined than others.
The recruiting scene is a copycat environment. If one tactic proves successful for a program, others are inclined to quickly replicate.
Based on the extensive expenses and exhaustive hours teams dedicate to recruiting, developing an iPhone app would seem like a relatively simple task to take on. Universities across the country already use mobile technology in a variety of functions so it makes sense to direct some of those efforts toward a lucrative department like high-profile athletics.
Sure, prospects could do their own research on a team through Google and various websites, but an app presents a different asset. It provides low-effort, instantaneous results and fits right in with how teenagers are used to operating.
Will recruit-based apps become common in college football?
Perhaps more importantly, it allows programs to control the narrative. Rutgers, and those that follow, will cast the spotlight on successes surrounding the program, while offering an opportunity for players to familiarize themselves with the team.
Unlike Twitter, the transfer of information is a one-way street.
Sometimes prospects are turned off by a coaching staff when they feel overly pressured at an early stage. Now, those players can decide how deep they want to dig into a team by simply tapping an app icon.
It's a low-risk avenue to get into the living room of young recruits without bending NCAA rules. Rutgers is the first program to enter this foray, but expect others to follow suit soon.