Arkansas Football Coach Monitors Recruits' Social Media for Red Flags
During Wednesday's SEC media days, University of Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema told reporters that he monitors recruits' social-media accounts as part of the recruiting process.
"We have a social media background screening that you've got to go through, and if you have a social media nickname or something on your Twitter account that makes me sick, I'm not going to recruit you," Bielema said. "I've turned down players based on their Twitter handles. I've turned down players based on Twitter pictures. It's just that's how I choose to run our program."
Bielema's statement about social media came in response to a question about his recruiting practices, saying, "You have to recruit the player that fits your program."
"[Former Iowa head coach Hayden] Fry used to say all the time, you recruit your own problems," Bielema continued. "All he was saying to us as assistant coaches, if you want to recruit a young man who's going to cause to you have gray hairs or make you stay awake on Friday night or make you have an issue that you don't want to deal with, then you recruit him. If you want to recruit somebody of high character and value, somebody you can trust to not only watch your house, but your children, someone you can count on to share carries of 1,000 yards each rather than trying to get 1,800 for one, now you're going to build something that matters."
Bielema isn't the only college football coach who factors a recruit's social-media accounts into his decision-making. Last summer, Pennsylvania State University offensive line coach Herb Hand tweeted that he had stopped pursuing a recruit due to his activity on social media:
Dropped another prospect this AM due to his social media presence...Actually glad I got to see the 'real' person before we offered him.— Herb Hand (@CoachHand) July 30, 2014
He later spoke more about that decision with 247Sports.com's Kipp Adams.
"If a guy makes the decision to post or RT stuff that degrades women, references drug use or cyber-bullying crap, then I can make the decision to drop them," Hand told Adams. "Especially if I have discussed it with them prior, and especially in today's climate of athletics."
During the University of Georgia's media day last year, head football coach Mark Richt likewise revealed he also kept an eye on recruits' social-media presence. In fact, he went as far as to rescind a scholarship offer to one recruit, as he told Michael Carvell of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution:
I can't publicly say, 'Hey, we dropped this guy.' But there's guys that we drop from the recruiting process because of things that we may find out on a visit. They may come and one of our current players will say, 'Coach, he's not going to make it around here.' Or we had one kid last year because of what he had on social media. He had some stuff on social media that we didn't like. We keep an eye on all that.
We told (the kid and) we told his coach (that) we don't condone that, and he was a guy who was already committed to Georgia. And he persisted. Well, actually he changed his (Twitter) handle and continued to do that kind of thing thinking we wouldn't find out. And we found out about it, and we cut him.
We rescinded that offer to him, because if he's not going to do what we say to do at that point then what's going to make us feel like he's going to do it when he gets here. There's definitely a vetting process that we're very serious about.
So, to all high school athletes interested in continuing your athletic careers during college, let this be the latest reminder: Keep an eye on what you're posting on social media. There's a strong chance your prospective future coaches are, too.
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