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Mixed messages

first_imgHe got 20 to 30 texts a day and felt obligated to respond to them. His family wasn’t prepared. He had never used the feature on his phone that much before. They soon changed to an unlimited text-messaging plan, but the damage was done. “At first, the number of texts was unbelievable,” said Crist, a junior at Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks. “It’s definitely overwhelming at times. I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it.” It’s stories like this that led to the NCAA banning all text messaging from the recruiting process late last month. The rule will go into effect in August. Even with his painful financial experience, Crist isn’t against text messaging used in recruiting. “I’m in the middle on it,” Crist said. “It’s definitely easier, quicker and not as intrusive as talking on the phone. You don’t have to respond to them right when you get them. It just needs limitations.” None of the recruits interviewed for this article were in favor of the NCAA’s decision to eliminate texting all together. Text messaging, or texting, is the preferred method of communication for teenagers these days. “Everyone has a Sidekick, AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) on their phone and texting,” Birmingham of Lake Balboa linebacker Donovan Carter said. “It’s kind of like, if you want to fit in, you have to get that. I know a lot of people who text more than they talk.” Normal telephone conversations and e-mails are like CDs, still used occasionally but rendered out of date by the iPod. Milton Knox, Carter’s teammate and a top running back recruit, enjoyed being able to show his friends notes from national champion Florida coach Urban Meyer. “I loved it,” Knox said. “I’m going to miss it. (Coaches) would send little inspirational messages just to say hello and to make sure you were thinking about school, not girls. It was cool knowing someone cared about you.” But those daily greetings may be where things got out of hand, Long Beach State basketball coach Dan Monson said. “Everyone’s trying to keep up with the Joneses and it spirals out of control a little bit,” Monson said. “You can’t let a kid hear from another coach more than he hears from you. That’s just bad recruiting.” Many of those texts come during school, right in the middle of a class. Students know to keep their phones on vibrate in order not to disrupt class, but there are no reminders to silence phones like there are at a movie theater. Sometimes they forget. Crist admitted that he’s gotten in trouble on occasion when his phone goes off in class at Notre Dame High. The NCAA has rules that coaches can only call a recruit twice a week during contact periods, and then there are no-contact periods when phone calls are not allowed. Coaches found a way around that rule by text messaging a kid to call them. That burdens the athlete’s family with additional cost from the long-distance phone calls. Five years ago, text messaging wasn’t an issue in Steve Smith’s recruitment from Taft of Woodland Hills to USC. His mother, Audrey, set up a separate phone line for coaches to call to talk to Steve, who was recently taken in the second round of the NFL draft by the New York Giants. She would usually answer the phone and talk to the coaches first. Technology changed quickly. It’s only been in the past three years that text messaging became not only a part of recruiting but the most-used means of contact. During the recruitment of her next son, Malcolm, this past year, Audrey felt out of the loop. “In my opinion, they’re cutting out the family aspect because the family is going to make the decision, but they’re building a reputation strictly with the kids,” Audrey Smith said. “Coaches used to call home and talk to the family. Now the texts go straight to the kid.” Showing the divide that generations have on this issue, Malcolm disagreed. “I thought texting was good,” said Malcolm, who decided to follow his brother from Taft to USC. “That was my way to respond to them without interrupting my life. I didn’t have to be bothered with a phone call. I’m sure if coaches had something they wanted to say to the parents, they could call or the parents could call.” The American Football Coaches Association tried to get the NCAA to delay voting on the issue of text messaging until it could be studied further. Though the NCAA declined, David Berst, the NCAA Division I vice president, took the unusual step of saying the matter could be readdressed next year. “They’re open to considering proposals in the next legislative cycle,” Berst said of the NCAA board of directors. “For now, it’s been eliminated.” Monson said he thought the ban was to give people time to step back and re-evaluate the issue. “Everyone agrees that text messaging is helpful, but it’s also clearly gotten out of control,” Monson said. “We have to see what’s the lesser of twoevils.” USC basketball coach Tim Floyd, notorious among those who know him as phobic when it comes to technology – he doesn’t even use the Internet – said he has never sent a text message but that all of his assistants do. He thinks it would be fair to set some limitations on text messaging, like not allowing them during school hours. “It has been very beneficial in communicating with prospects,” Floyd said. “It was never understood by the board members who mandated this rule. If a kid doesn’t want to respond to your text, he’s more or less telling you that he’s not interested and the school can move on. The kid has the option on whether or not to respond.” Karen Crist, Dayne’s mother, said that athletes hearing from these iconic coaches they’ve grown up watching on TV are too impressed to understand that ignoring the texts is a choice. “In the beginning, Dayne believed that he had to respond to everybody,” Karen Crist said. “I told him, `You don’t have to respond to someone who says `Hey Dayne, have a nice day at school.”‘ But he wasn’t prepared for that. Kids don’t know who they want to talk to and when they should respond.” Dayne found a way to make the texts stop before August. He committed to Notre Dame at the end of April, before even finishing his junior year of high school. By taking himself off the market, his texts dropped to maybe 10 a week. “I couldn’t imagine doing this for another eight months,” Karen Crist said. “It was horrific. There’s got to be a better way to deal with it.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Dayne Crist still hears about it whenever his mom wants to remind him that he’s not quite the perfect son he appears to be as a star quarterback with stellar grades and a scholarship waiting for him at Notre Dame. There will always be that one mishap hanging over his head: the $500 cell phone bill. It was February of this year, the time when football coaches around the country close out one recruiting class and start right up on the next group. As one of the most sought-after players in the nation, he saw his cell phone begin lighting up. Charlie Weiss, Pete Carroll, Bobby Bowden, Lloyd Carr and Bill Callahan were just some of the coaches from whom he started receiving text messages on a daily basis. last_img