Socially acceptable: College hockey coaches taking advantage of relaxed social media rules
The days of traditional verbal commitments are long gone in college athletics.Like pay phones, 35mm film and apparently the headphone jack for iPhone users, making a verbal commitment prior to signing a national letter of intent has become obsole...
The days of traditional verbal commitments are long gone in college athletics.
Like pay phones, 35mm film and apparently the headphone jack for iPhone users, making a verbal commitment prior to signing a national letter of intent has become obsolete.
Let’s call them what they really are in 2016: Twitter commitments.
“Proud to announce my commitment to play hockey at the University of Minnesota Duluth, thanks for the support along the way!” Minneapolis Southwest sophomore Jake Hale tweeted Sept. 14.
It’s the preferred method for the current generation of prospective student-athletes who once had to seek out the attention of reporters or basement bloggers to make their commitment known to the world. Now they can bypass all that with a simple tweet to not only reach the masses, but interact with the coach and program to which they just made a commitment.
NCAA recruiting rules still prohibit coaches and universities from commenting on recruits prior to the student-athlete’s signing of a letter of intent, however a change that went into effect Aug. 1 allows coaches and universities to acknowledge those verbal commitments made on social media via a “like,” or “favorite.” Coaches and universities may now republish those Twitter commitments in the form of a share or retweet.
They still cannot comment, however, on the commitment or say anything publicly - so “quote tweets” are still a no-no, according to the NCAA.
“It was stupid not to (like or favorite). It’s not like you’re communicating with them,” said Miami men’s hockey coach Enrico Blasi, who since the rule change has been retweeting and liking verbal commitments made to his program on Twitter. “You’re just liking what they do, which is what everybody else in the world does, but for some reason we can’t.”
Of the eight NCHC coaches, only four use Twitter: North Dakota’s Brad Berry, St. Cloud State’s Bob Motzko, Denver’s Jim Montgomery and Blasi.
In the women’s WCHA, six of the 10 coaches are on Twitter: Minnesota Duluth’s Maura Crowell, Bemidji State’s Jim Scanlan, Minnesota’s Brad Frost, North Dakota’s Brian Idalski and St. Cloud State’s Eric Rud, though Rud has yet to send out a tweet, only “liking” three.
Those coaches who use social media, like Crowell, say it’s critical to their program’s success and that not being active on social media is a missed opportunity.
And now with the new NCAA rules in place, social media has taken on an even greater importance because it allows coaches to further connect with recruits.
“If you’re not active on Twitter, Instagram or even Facebook still, I think you’re missing some key opportunities to connect with the younger generation,” Crowell said. “I think it’s a nice way for them to learn about us not only as individuals, as coaches, but also as a program.”
The UMD women’s hockey team is active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. All three of the team’s social media accounts are run by the assistant coaches, with Laura Bellamy being the Twitter guru and Chris Connolly taking care of Instagram. The Facebook account is linked to Twitter.
Bellamy said Instagram is growing in popularity among high schoolers, and has probably overtaken Twitter. But for now, Twitter is still the king when it comes to commitments, especially in college hockey.
A template of sorts has even developed for players to follow. It reads:
“(Proud and/or excited) to announce my commitment to play hockey at (insert school here), thanks to everyone for their support along the way!” (tack on school hashtag plus an emoji if you have enough characters).
Montgomery joked at NCHC Media Day in September he wishes youngsters would get more original with their announcements.
“One of our kids was like, ‘Looking forward to adding an eighth national championship.’ That was original,” Montgomery said. “If they’re going to St. Cloud, ‘I’m looking forward to tearing up …’ what’s it called, The Red Velvet? The Red Carpet?”
In the NCHC, only Montgomery and Blasi have seized on their newfound social media freedoms since the new rules went into effect. In the WCHA, Frost, Idalski and Scanlan have begun retweeting and/or favoriting tweets by student-athletes announcing their verbal commitment. Bellamy has been liking tweets by those committing to UMD.
Both Frost and Idalski acknowledged there could be a bit of a downside to the new rules if you run into student-athletes who may now gauge how interested a coach and program is based on whether or not their social media posts are receiving likes, favorites, shares or retweets.
Both coaches said those student-athletes are probably few and far between, and if they do exist, then their probably not the right fit for their programs.
“I can assure you we got enough going on,” Idalski said. “I’m not sitting all day going through someone’s timeline deciding what to retweet or favorite.
“Could it get out of hand? I don’t think players are making their final decisions based upon a retweet or a like on social media.”
Bellamy said it’s also good for coaches to give recruits their space on social media.
“They are normal high school kids trying to live regular lives,” Bellamy said. “I try to understand what their perspective is on things, too. To have a lot of college coaches following your every move can be a little bit uncomfortable.”