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NCAA’s proposed text message ban would affect USF coaches

NCAA coaches with unlimited text messaging plans won’t be saving the amount of money they are used to.

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The NCAA Division I management council is strongly considering eliminating any electronic contact, including text messages, between coaches and potential recruits. A limited amount of e-mails and faxes will still be permissible.

If the ban is imposed, recruiting at USF would have to find a new way to communicate with student-athletes.

“We do it a lot. We have one assistant, and that’s all that he handles,” baseball coach Lelo Prado said. “He’s texting every day long with his other duties, but one of his biggest jobs is keeping up with the kids.

If you’re not doing that, you won’t get players.”

Prado indicated he has a list of potential recruits, and each recruit will receive the same message he sends out by only typing it once.

John Gerdes, assistant director of athletics at USF, indicated that nearly all the athletic programs at the school use text messaging as a tool to bring in student-athletes.

During USF’s educational compliance meetings, coaches discussed the pending legislation involving students and text messaging.

“I’ve been very aware (of a possible ban). … If that happens, it will really hurt our recruiting,” volleyball coach Claire Lessinger said. “When something is allowed, coaches are going to take advantage. This technology is the best way to communicate with potential recruits.”

Women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez feels text messaging should be allowed, but only at specific times, such as after school hours but before 10 p.m.

“A lot of student-athletes do not communicate verbally, and text messaging is a way to allow them to communicate and express their emotions,” Fernandez said. “I know a lot of student-athletes feel more comfortable text messaging instead of talking on the phone.”

Enforcing such restrictions between coaches and possible recruits would be extremely difficult. In addition, athletes’ phones would be flooded with messages during the hours when texting is allowed.

“I think it would be tough to restrict,” Prado said. “There’s no way around it. The players text just as badly as we do. If a player is friends with a recruit, then they’re texting all day long. So my phone isn’t the only one that’s full.

“But they’re going to have to do something because it’s out of hand right now.”

Most of the coaches believe some restriction should be in place so athletes have time to focus on academics and their private lives.

“We haven’t had any of those situations of bombardment or the wrong time of day,” Lessinger said. “We would never do that. I think it became an issue when coaches would take advantage of the situation and the NCAA had to step in because some coaches really attack those kids.”

Previously, the only restrictions imposed on contact between an athletic department and possible student-athletes are bans on phone calls and personal visits.

But text messaging became problematic when recruits were complaining about enormously high cell phone bills and an overall lack of privacy.

Although texting is a tool used by many of the athletic programs, not all teams utilize the technology.

“No, I’ve never received a text message, but it wasn’t as big back (when I was being recruited),” sophomore soccer player Jordan Seabrook said. “But the rules are loose enough, and I think coaches have plenty of time to call you.”

Seabrook said he doesn’t think men’s soccer coach George Kiefer uses text messages with prospects.

The ban hasn’t been approved yet, but the Board of Directors will vote on the elimination of text messages at its meeting April 26. The rule is expected to be broad in order to cover any new technological advances in the future.

Enforcement of the ruling will begin in August, but if the vote is delayed or rejected, coaches can resume text messaging on an unlimited basis.

“For a young volleyball prospect for us, text messaging is the way to go,” Lessinger said. “For sure, this has made it easier to bring kids to school, and they’ve enjoyed it.”