Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fan ‘nastiness’ can impact recruiting

image Yahoo! Sports’ Rand Getlin tweeted a link to a story this morning from the Tacoma, Washington News - Tribune, highlighting how fan reactions to a prospect’s decision against their school can impact other prospects’ choices.

The report focuses on KeiVarae Russell, an Everett, WA prospect who chose Notre Dame over local favorite Washington. Russell was promptly subjected to a barrage of vitriol on fan message boards. While the News – Tribune doesn’t mention social media, is it much of a stretch to think that the Tweets and Facebook wall postings were any more pleasant?

The message: Watch what you say about a 17- or 18-year old’s decision on where he’ll spend the next 4-5 of the most important years of his adult life. People are watching and how fans treat people who “betray” them by choosing another school might cause other recruits to take notice.

Those anonymous online comments are more than fans blowing off steam over losing in-state recruits. They have real-life ramifications, particularly when it comes to recruiting.

Tacoma Baptist offensive tackle Walker Williams said recruits talk about the comments written by posters on recruiting message boards. Williams, who has given an oral commitment to Wisconsin, said they caused at least one UW prospect to eliminate the Huskies from consideration.

“I’m not going to talk about which person,” Williams said, “but that was a factor in one of the recruits deciding not to go to Washington – how the Washington fans treated another recruit when he decided not to go to Washington.”

Obviously, a recruit considers others aspects – playing time, location, academics, relationship with coaches, program prestige, etc. – that probably carry more weight when choosing a college. However, the way fans treat recruits is not insignificant. Russell said the comments could have long-term effects.

When Daphne, Alabama’s five-star tailback TJ Yeldon switched his commitment from Auburn to in-state rival Alabama, livid Tiger fans took to Twitter and absolutely roasted the young man’s change of heart. 

As the News – Tribune’s report points out, recruits consider many aspects of a program during the process of choosing a school to play sports and pursue an education. But it’s worth pointing out that since Yeldon made his announcement and endured the attacks, at least two prized recruits are looking elsewhere. Top JUCO lineman Will Latu has verbally committed to Auburn, but told that he was looking around (paywall). Fellow Blue-Chipper wide receiver Deon Bush, who also listed Auburn as one of his finalists (along with Alabama), announced he was committed to the Miami Hurricanes.

Today’s obvious Exit Question: What’s the chance either or both of these young men find the Auburn Family reaction to Yeldon’s choice just ugly enough to affect their decisions?

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