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January 6, 2010

Texting ban could change with the times

MORE: East Team Tuesday stars | West Team Tuesday stars | Army All-American Bowl coverage

SAN ANTONIO - To text or not to text? That is the question.

For players at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, there is no easy answer.

In April 2007, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted 13-3 to prohibit the use of text messaging in recruiting. E-mail and faxes were still allowed but a valuable and functional way for college coaches to quickly communicate with recruits was taken away.

"This doesn't mean to say that the board fails to recognize that text messaging is a reality in the communication world," NCAA vice president David Berst said at the time. "I believe it will take the next year without it to decide something that is workable.

"What we have was a recognition that we had a dilemma and student-athletes expressed some concern as coaches have voiced strong support. The presidents think that there is some solution in the middle."

Nearly two years later, some prospects said they'd like to see the reinstitution of text messaging because they say phone calls can be intrusive and time-consuming. Responding to a text message at their own leisure is something some recruits prefer. Feeling compelled to answer a coach's phone call can sometimes be grueling or unmanageable.

Translation: Text messaging is just easier.

"It would give you the chance to really know a coach more," said LSU commit Cassius Marsh. "A coach can't fake it when you're talking to him on a daily basis. You can only fake it for so long. That would be good for players to be able to know who they're dealing with better. If they're doing shady stuff you'll know it. The text messaging won't affect that stuff all that much.

"I'd much rather text. It would be really nice just to communicate that way. It's more relaxing. When you're on the phone you can only do one thing. With school work and everything that goes with school and the season it's really time consuming and it takes up a lot of your life and it makes you kind of dread it."

The beauty of text messaging is that it allows easy and quick communication. The downfall is that it could be endless with some coaches sending multiple text messages that could make cell phone bills astronomical. The burden of receiving - and feeling compelled to answer - so many texts from so many coaches can be burdensome.

Five-star defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, from Plano (Texas) Plano West, said text messages were never a nuisance to him for one simple reason: He only provided his cell phone number to those he wanted to have it.

Jeffcoat is still considering Texas, Houston, Florida, USC and Arizona State. In the days when coaches could text, an uncommitted, high-profile recruit like Jeffcoat would probably receive dozens of messages per day.

"I never really had to deal with that," Jeffcoat said. "I never gave my cell phone away. I had help from my parents. My dad has been through the recruiting process and my mom knows a lot about the recruiting process so they would always make sure I didn't give my cell phone number away to sites and people like that so I wouldn't get bothered by all that.

"I don't think it's a good way because they can keep texting you and texting you. It doesn't count as a phone call and they can text you at all hours of the night. A lot of people have problems with that. I don't think the text message thing is very good."

Said Detroit Cass Tech cornerback Dior Mathis: "Players should be happy that coaches are calling or texting at all so it wouldn't even matter to me."

A few years ago, Robert Woods' story would be unheard of. Rated as the best player in California and the third-best recruit in the 2010 class by Rivals.com, Woods, a USC commit from Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra, said he has never, ever, not once received a text message from a college coach. When texting was allowed, Woods' phone probably would have been buzzing non-stop.

"No texts," Woods said. "Never got any texts. Never. I text a lot. Phone calls are pretty much annoying. When you text you can do multiple things. You don't have to reply right away. When you're busy, you're busy but when you get a phone call you have to stop what you're doing and you have to take that call."

The ban on text messaging might not be as restrictive to coaches as it seems, though. E-mail communication is still allowed and so many prospects have Blackberrys, iPhones and other "smart" devices that can send e-mails straight to them. Numerous recruits said coaches have contacted them through social networking sites Facebook and MySpace.

Still, Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barton Simmons argues that texting is so much easier and less time-restrictive than phone calls and that it is a valuable way for coaches and prospects to communicate.

"It's a great way to stay in touch without really committing to a conversation," Simmons said. "They can return your text at their convenience. They always have their phone on them for the most part. A lot of them with this generation they've become very comfortable with texting, almost more so than calling in a lot of cases. It's definitely just a great tool to use to build relationships, maintain relationships and to just stay in touch."



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