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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

Warning: High school and college athletes should use social media with caution. Heck, everyone should.

Tweet, post, write on Facebook to your heart's content, but know that the history you create, the breadcrumbs of thought, philosophy, associations and opinions could come back to bite you in the butt.

We live in a day and age where recruits have taken over their own destiny as public relations experts. We see these graphic-laden tweets announcing official visits, scholarship offers, with the phrase "blessed to receive an offer" used as a cookie-cutter pronouncement of status.

That's all fine and dandy. But it becomes a record, for good or bad. The commits, the de-commits, the proclamations that end up being premature declarations are radar points to be watched and examined.

Take the case of Illinois high school quarterback Ben Bryant, a three-star recruit who committed to Wisconsin way back in December. Last week Bryant tweeted out he "was humbled" to receive an offer from Georgia. Wisconsin then dropped him for posting news of the offer.

That little tweet by Bryant seemed harmless on the surface. But for some coaching staffs who expect recruiting action to subside once an offer has been tendered and accepted, it is reason to bring out the ax.

Bryant wrote this weekend that he told Wisconsin coaches the night before the tweet that he was still committed, but he was told the next morning he was no longer a fit. Bryant now bemoans that "humbled to receive" tweet. He wrote, "I should not have corresponded more than once with another school while committed, and that trust is sacred."

College recruiters regularly scan, check and research prospects' social media profiles. It gives them insight into their lives, friends, interests and personalities. It can affirm evaluations or raise red flags.

Recruits aren't the only targets. So are coaches.

When Auburn coach Gus Malzahn hires a new staff member, as he told the "Ronnie Floyd podcast" on May 9, he researches social media of the candidate. Floyd is past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and interviewed Malzahn about leadership and making decisions.

"You can find out so much," said Malzahn. "Nowadays, young people will share everything. You can find out their character, their girlfriend," Malzahn said. "We definitely keep up with that. At the same time, no doubt when you're hiring a coach or hiring an off-the-field person, we're going to start with their social media. It'll tell you a whole lot."

The Auburn coach believes high school prospects have evolved during the past half decade. Cellphones, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are among the tools that provide instant feedback. Many experts say it is not only addictive, but a driving force for the latest generation to communicate and establish identity. It can also be a distraction for not only youth, but adults, thus coaches.

Explained Malzahn, "From a coach's standpoint, I'm always thinking about the distractions. Social media for me is important in recruiting, but at the same time, it can also be a distraction if I'm on the internet checking things. It's kind of an addictive thing."

Malzahn even brought in the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, to speak to the Auburn Tiger squad, to enlighten them on what social media can do.

"It was interesting the things he was saying. The attention spans of young people are so short now. There's so much immediate response, and they're visual learners. Staying on that cutting edge of understanding recruits, so you can relate to them."

Twitter and the like are powerful modern tools that link our society together. The new media has transformed every aspect of who and what we do. In the newspaper business, it has obliterated deadlines and how we define breaking news.

Yet, there are few guidebooks of best practices. There are few filters or editors. I've been in this business for a few years. I have been guilty of posting dumb things.

Be careful.

EMAIL: dharmon@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: Harmonwrites

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