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Through the Net – How the Internet Has Changed College Basketball Recruiting
Recruiting top athletes into college basketball has always been important to college athletic departments across the United States. Year after year, the best coaches compete for the best athletes in hopes of winning a national title and, subsequently, making their university known to prospective students and alumni (and their wallets). But in the pre-internet era, recruiting was largely the domain of the insider; fans were almost exclusively outdoors and rarely experienced the day-to-day activities involved in recruiting. In fact, most fans’ first looks at the newest members of their basketball team came right before the opening night announcement. However, once fans tuned in, that all changed.
Sports recruiting for college sports, college basketball in particular, is now its own industry. Specialized recruiting websites offer fans the ability to track their school’s recruiting progress daily and also offer insight into how these recruits are doing in high school basketball games. Just fifteen years ago, high school athletes played in relative obscurity, hoping to catch the eye of a coach who would be impressed enough to offer a scholarship. Now, in large part because of these recruiting reporting websites, high school athletes are household names among fans, and blue chippers are playing big games in front of national viewers.
Online message boards
Additionally, fans chat with each other on online chat rooms. Hardcore sports fans debate, argue, ridicule, criticize and, on a good day, even praise their favorite team’s progress in sports recruiting throughout the year. Just minutes after a high-profile rookie pledges to play for a school, thousands of fans flock to message boards to discuss the team’s future. All of this before a recruit wears a uniform or scores a single point, and even before the recruit graduates from high school. The value of these message boards can be assessed in a number of ways: do they harm recruiting by speaking negatively about future recruits or even current players? Do recruits read message boards and base their future decision on how fans treat the recruiting process? The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
It’s hard to tell where the future of recruiting goes from here. As it stands, high school athletes regularly recruit as early as their freshman year of high school, and some players are recruited as early as eighth grade. The battle for top recruits escalates year after year, as the pressure on coaches to win it all comes from all sides: the university administration, donors and supporters. One thing is certain, though—as long as fans get excited about their favorite teams, they’ll continue to follow sports recruiting online.
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