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Archive for Thursday, April 26, 2007

Text messaging needs moderation

April 26, 2007

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Somebody stop the NCAA board of directors before they hurt somebody over text messaging regulations.

Wait a second. That's too harsh.

Somebody stop coaches before they hurt themselves over text message excesses.

Wait. That's harsh, too.

Text messaging isn't the root of all college recruiting evil. It is, however, in need of regulating and common sense. The question is how much and that could be decided today, when the NCAA board of directors meets to rule on a ban on all electronically transmitted correspondence.

At the moment, it's an all-or-nothing dilemma, and for this we can thank going-too-far coaches and the Division I management council, which recommended the ban last week. They were influenced by the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, which represents college athletes and which complained that the number of text messages had become excessive and costly and just plain wrong.

The NCAA board of directors makes the final call. A ban would take effect starting in August.

Yes, there was this management council escape clause - if coaches offered a strong enough alternative (mixed with a lot of griping), a compromise could emerge.

Thus we have Grant Teaff, the execution director of the American Football coaches Association.

What's the rush, he said, and sent the board a letter seeking a more moderate approach by taking more time to debate the issue.

There is plenty to debate. Some coaches, such as Notre Dame's Mike Brey, favor a ban. Others, such as Dane Fife of Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, prefer keeping text messaging but with limits. Texas' Mack Brown thinks a ban is a bad idea.

Text messaging has become almost as ingrained in our culture as spam. Almost everybody does it, especially those under 18, who are the ones being recruited. Want to build a relationship with them? Talk to them the way friends and family do, and in this wired age, text messaging matters.

It's not the only way, of course. There are phone calls, faxes, e-mails, hand-written letters and face-to-face conversations, although those have restrictions.

The NCAA, for instance, limits coaches to one phone call a week during contact periods. For now there are no limits on text messages with one exception - no contact of any kind during the July evaluation period.

Of course, any regulation or ban faces enforcement challenges. That, too, has yet to be worked out.

We've reached this point because of coaches' competitive zeal and recruiting's ruthless nature. You can't keep your job if you can't win big, and you can't win big if you don't get the best players.

That breeds an out-work-the-other-guys mindset. If Coach A sends two text messages to a recruit, Coach B feels compelled to send three, and so forth.

The result is elite recruits such as Texas guard Jai Lucas can get as many as 75 text messages a day. National recruiting analyst Dave Telep said one high-profile recruit told him he had received more than 1,300 text messages in just over two months following the 2006 Final Four.

Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter talks of the advantages text messaging provides in getting access to recruits and in determining interest in your program.

In the end, figure text messaging will be allowed, but with limits - perhaps only on weekends, only at night, only during designated contact periods. That's not harsh. It's just common sense.

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