| March 22, 2018

Column: Evolution of Recruitment

September 1, 2016

The world of college football was rocked last week when a defensive tackle decommitted from Michigan after receiving a thank you card for his attendance at an event he was not present for.

Aubrey Solomon, an ESPN 300 defensive tackle, reopened his recruitment after stating he felt  his addition to the Wolverine football program was not a high priority for the coaching staff.

The thank you card misspelled his first and last name.

Solomon took to Twitter to voice his concerns, posting a personal statement with the challenge for other coaches to develop a personal relationship with the defensive standout.

The situation raises an intriguing point regarding college recruitment in the digital age. In previous decades, college coaches could commit numerous errors during the process and recruits would still feel honored for the attention.

Nowadays, high school athletes generally have accounts on social media, where they can vent frustrations whenever they feel mistreated. This forces coaches to strive for perfection during the recruitment process.

The most notable example is Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverine head coach has approached recruitment this offseason with a peculiar and effective approach that is unparalleled among college peers.

Harbaugh wears basketball and baseball jerseys at satellite camps. He climbed a recruit’s tree during a game of catch. He even re-enacted a scene from the Lion King with his players for kicks and giggles.

Harbaugh has developed a strong presence throughout the country. But a notorious reputation and strong persona were no match for a jilted high school student with a Twitter account, leaving a blemish in an otherwise formidable incoming class.

This situation highlights a slight shift in power from coaches to athletes during the recruitment process. The Internet offers the opportunity for athletes to immediately express displeasure with coaches.

The prevalence of social media has also allowed athletes to bypass traditional media outlets, as with individuals tweeting official statements on a number of topics.

What does this mean for the world of college football? It is hard to tell with today’s shifting landscape. But in the meantime, collegiate coaches ought to approach recruitment with a little more attention to ensure a positive relationship with athletes.

Josh Grissom can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @GoshJrissom

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