In the final of our three part series on technology and it's impact on how we view, follow and track our teams, we talk recruiting.
If there's one thing that seems to have exploded in recent years it's how closely fans can and choose to follow recruiting. In some ways it's hard to believe that fans from 16-60 are so fascinated by the decisions of high school seniors, but in many ways it's the ever promising future that makes sport so addicting in the first place. As the saying goes, "there's always next year."
In thinking about the subject I thought that I might enlist some help. Jon Kirby from Jayhawkslant.com has been covering the recruiting game since before there was a recruiting game so to speak. Kirby got his start with MoKanFootball.com and has been in and around the recruiting scene for the better part of 12 years.
In that time he's certainly been through the changes and in my mind Kirby was the best person to give some perspective on how things differ. With that I asked for some help, and he was kind enough to oblige for a quick 5 question Q&A on the subject.
1. How have you seen advances in technology and further development of websites like Rivals impact the recruiting landscape both in how it's managed by the coaches and also in how it's followed by the fans?
I don't know how much coaches use the recruiting sites as an evaluation tool, but I know have heard some say they use it as a resource. They can see other schools commitments lists, see who did well in camps, and what the recruits are being quoted as saying off of web sites like Rivals.com and others.
The internet definitely isn't getting smaller and the fan bases grow more and more on a daily basis. It's becoming a way of life for sports fans to follow their teams online. We have seen the traffic increase every year.
2. A pretty common measuring stick for recruits is the 'star ranking'. I have to assume that the rivals network has developed a great deal from where it was say 10 years ago and with that I'd assume the network sees and evaluates a lot more film sent in by prospects.
From Kansas' perspective or really any teams perspective, do you think that at times it might appear that the recruiting has stepped up a notch when it's really a situation of more film, more evaluations and as a result more players receiving those 3 star rankings?
It is easier to get more accurate rankings in recent years because the technology is better. It used be when I first started this 12 years ago a recruit had to wait a month before a coach could cut his highlight film up and transfer it onto an old VCR tape. Then they had to mail or ship it you and it took weeks.
Now when you get film from coaches or players it can be as easy as emailing the clips which are in your possession seconds later. Or some coaches and recruits have the DVD clips laying around and can burn them and have them to you in a matter of days.
I think it might be too early to tell exactly where the Kansas class will end up in the rankings. They still have some work to do but a nice foundation has been started with some of the early commitments.
3. How has social media impacted the way recruiting is covered in the media? How has it changed the way recruiting is followed by the fans, players and recruits?
I think the biggest factor has been Facebook and Twitter. I'm not so sure when it comes to recruiting it is all good either. Take Kansas for example. The have a Facebook page that represents the university and they tell fans/alums to not make contact with recruits. It is against the rules. But it happens all over the place.
I know there are fans that follow certain recruits through social media and it is a tricky situation. You have to be very careful. It has opened up the recruiting scene because there are a lot fewer secrets out there compared to the past.
4. What's been the biggest change you've seen with the growing interest and differing ways to follow and cover recruiting and just football in general?
I think recruiting is almost taken too seriously. Look at Kansas in 2007 when they went to an Orange Bowl. They had a team made up of average classes and recruits. There is now so much emphasis on the recruiting rankings and pre-determined success. Plus there are a lot more people following recruiting and differing opinions than compared to past years.
5. And lastly on the topic of technology and recruiting, what's the biggest challenge you think a coaching staff faces due to the immense amount of emphasis and attention that the recruiting arena receives?
Coaches are under so much more pressure these days to produce in recruiting because everything has become so public. All of the fans know exactly what coach recruited what player and what players are higher rated, etc. If a class gets rated too low then the coaching staff has to listen to the criticism right away on signing day.
The problem is recruiting is not an exact science. It is far from it. If it was then 10-15 coaches wouldn't get fired every year. There is also a lot more that goes into including how a staff can develop a player and the work ethic a player will bring to a program. You really can't measure heart.
I know there are college coaches who dislike the ranking system because so much momentum or lack of is developed by the fans over recruiting. I truly believe there are some fans that put more stock into the recruiting than what a program accomplishes on the field.
It has made it very tough for college coaches since everything they do is under a microscope.