By Wendy Pan
Big-time college basketball sports recruiting has always been important to university athletic departments throughout the United States. Year after year, top coaches battle each other for the best athletes in the hopes of winning a national title and subsequently earning their university valuable exposure to both prospective students and alumni (and their pocketbooks).
But in the pre-Internet days, recruiting was largely the domain of the insider; fans were almost exclusively on the outside looking in, and rarely knew of the day-to-day activities involved in recruiting. In fact, most fans’ first looks at new members of their basketball team were just before tip-off on opening night. Once fans got online, however, all that changed.
Recruiting Web Sites
Sports recruiting for college sports, college basketball in particular, is now its own industry. Web sites that specialize in recruiting offer fans a chance to track their school’s recruiting progress daily, and also offer a sneak peek at how those 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 due to these Web sites that report on recruiting, high school athletes are household names among fan bases, and the blue chippers play big games in front of national television audiences.
Online Message Boards
Additionally, fans chat among themselves on online message boards. Hardcore sports fans debate, argue, ridicule, criticize, and on good days even laud their favorite team’s sports recruiting progress throughout the year. Mere minutes after a top recruit commits to play for a school, thousands of fans flock to message boards to discuss the future of the team. All of this before a recruit wears a uniform or scores a single point, and even before that recruit graduates from high school. The worth of these message boards could be evaluated a number of different ways: Do they damage recruiting by talking negatively about future recruits or even current players? Do recruits read the 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 say where the future of recruiting goes from here. As it stands now, high school athletes are routinely being recruiting as young as their freshman year of high school, and some players are being recruited as young as the eighth grade. The battle for top recruits becomes more heated with each passing year as the pressure on coaches to win it all comes from all sides: the university’s administration, donors, and the fans. One thing is certain, however — as long as fans feel passionately about their favorite teams, they will continue to follow sports recruiting online.
Wendy Pan is an accomplished niche website developer and author.
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