Negative Recruiting: Impact is Softening

By Joseph Nardone

The horror stories are all out there. A young kid is deciding between multiple choices of schools to join while getting recruited. With only his immediate family to help, the student-athlete relies on the coaches recruiting him for accurate information about their program and university. But what happens next is a test to how much the human stomach can take by way of a grown man belittling another.

Generally, you would think a coach would be “selling” his program to the recruit. What kind of system he runs, how much playing time he can offer, the academics (some do go there to learn), or a basic overall package of what the kid should expect coming to play at that particular university.

Instead the athlete will get bombarded with questions about why he would even consider going to such and such school. The coach there is to old or sick, the facilities there are garbage, and/or only second tier players go play for him. Trust me, there is more than just that and sometimes even more sickening.

Recent Kansas Jayhawk commit Brannen Greene commented on some of the negative recruiting he had to deal with(All quotes were obtained by and credited to Jason Jordan). “It’s crazy,” said Greene. “I’m always thinking in the back of my mind ‘you do know I’m committed, right?’ They want to know if I’m still open to their schools, but even though I say I’m not they keep coming.”

Greene said that before he committed to Kansas he was questioned by coaches recruiting him about why he would consider playing for Jim Calhoun because he, “would never coach me because he’s sick and going to retire.”

The amazing part of Greene’s story is that he has opened the door wide open to the public about negative recruiting. The more these athletes talk about their recruiting experience the less impact negative recruiting will have. And Greene is not alone, Kentucky Wildcats super-recruit Nerlens Noel had a similar experience.

This is Noels talking about how another coach told him not to be swayed by Kentucky’s money offer.

“I was shocked that he would say something crazy like that,” said Noel. “Of course I would never accept money and of course Kentucky never offered me money, but to hear that from him turned me off. I didn’t hold it against him because I know coaches get jealous at times. I just look at it like they’re really just insecure about themselves.”

The reason negative recruiting has always had such an impact was that it was college sports dirty little secret. But the world is much smaller now and these kids have access to social media, leaving little room for dishonesty and evil-doings. Everyone has known about negative recruiting for a long time but the student-athletes never had an outlet to talk about their disdain for it.

While it has certainly worked on kids in the past because of the player’s lack of information, with the world-wide-interweb a fixture in their lives now, these recruits can get information all by themselves. So when a recruiter is telling them how awful a place city “x” is, they can look it up or ask a current player directly via the Twitter machine.

Noel’s also made a good point about the perception of negative recruiting. It makes the coaches doing it seem insecure, which is certainly an unattractive feature for a coach. These players are too smart and have to much access to make a decision based on lies or miss-truths a negative recruiter throws at them.

The next step will be the student-athletes calling these coaches out by name. Despite how prevalent negative recruiting might be in the college ranks, no coach wants to be linked to such a dirty word. If someone obtained of a story directly linking a college coach to negative recruiting that coach’s credibility is shattered, leaving whatever “pitches” they have for a recruit tainted by the story.

With the world becoming much smaller, the athletes having more access, and 24/7 sports networks and websites at the ready, negative recruiting is having less of an impact every offseason. The days of coaches taking a young kid’s gullibility for granted are all about gone.

What’s going to be interesting to see is what coaches will survive the loss of their greatest recruiting tool. Heaven forbid they have to pitch themselves and their own program to a kid.

Joe covers the Big East and CBB in general for Rant Sports, follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone


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