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Harris: Let's talk about this rule change

| Monday, May 6, 2013, 11:26 p.m.
Alabama coach Nick Saban points upwards after his team defeated the Georgia Bulldogs during the NCAA SEC college football championship, December 1, 2012, in Atlanta.
Alabama coach Nick Saban points upwards after his team defeated the Georgia Bulldogs during the NCAA SEC college football championship, December 1, 2012, in Atlanta.

When the NCAA last week suspended a rule passed in January allowing unlimited electronic communications — including text messaging — from college coaches to football recruits, it overlooked why the rule was passed in the first place: to protect the kids.

And while limiting the number of text messages that football coaches can send recruits wouldn't have the same impact as reducing the number of scholarships, there was legitimate merit in the NCAA changing with the times, even if the rule only lasted a few months.

Let's hope the NCAA pays more attention to the well-being of its student-athletes, and pays less attention to the 75 schools that voted against the rule because they can't — or won't — compete with schools who favor texting.

Again, the issue of schools texting student-athletes won't change the overall face of the NCAA.

However, texting — like it or not — factors heavily in the lives of student-athletes, and should be treated accordingly.

“Texting is good. It's what kids like to do,” Clairton football coach Tom Nola said.

Three of Nola's players — Tyler Boyd, Terrish Webb and Titus Howard — signed with Pitt in February. Nola said unlimited texting permitted during the latter part of the recruiting period was a positive experience.

“I thought it was a good rule,” Nola said. “They could text back and forth with coaches and didn't have to spend a lot of time talking on the phone with them.”

Truthfully, most high school kids would rather text a coach than speak at length on the phone.

I have discovered that high school kids prefer texting over speaking with their parents face-to-face.

Unlimited texting could result in fewer examples of the outrageous behavior displayed by persistent college coaches.

Some coaches think nothing of firing off 100 recruiting letters at a time — to the same player.

All perfectly legal, of course. But incredibly taxing on a student-athlete and his family.

When Georgia high school football star Stanton Truitt checked his home mailbox one day last month, he discovered 102 handwritten letters from Tennessee first-year coach Butch Jones.

“I kept thinking there was no way these came from the same school,” Truitt, who made the ESPN 150 recruiting list, said in a March interview. “I kept pulling on them and I thought the mailbox was going to break.

“It was crazy.”

Truitt hasn't committed to Tennessee, or anywhere else. Truitt said he also received handwritten letters from Georgia Tech, Wisconsin and North Carolina State.

Prior to the 102 letters from Tennessee, Truitt said the most he received at one time was 12 from Vanderbilt and 10 from West Virginia.

Speaking of crazy ...

Top quarterback recruit and Kentucky native Drew Barker said he received 115 handwritten letters from the University of Kentucky in February. Like Truitt, Barker remains uncommitted.

After receiving 32 handwritten letters from Mississippi, Camp Hill tight end Adam Breneman, considered one of the top tight end prospects in the nation, tweeted Aug. 17, 2012: “Ole Miss sent 32 hand written letters to my house today ... Hahaha crazy.”

Breneman signed with Penn State.

Crazy, indeed.

On the other hand, Alabama coach Nick Saban and his staff got their man after sending 105 letters — some handwritten, some fliers — to running back Alvin Kamara, who signed in February.

Did Alabama — which has won two consecutive national championships — really need to send 105 letters to ensure the signing of Kamara? Wouldn't Kamara likely have attended Alabama — the new Running Back U. in college football — without receiving a single letter?

Are handwritten letters to recruits a waste of time? What do student-athletes think?

“It was crazy, but I liked it,” Kamara said.

Mail carriers, beware.

With unlimited texting no longer available to football coaches, expect them to bombard recruits with more personalized letters than some mailboxes can handle.

Crazy is what crazy does.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.

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