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July 24, 2013

Stoops says fans might as well go Twitter crazy

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DALLAS -- Oh social media, I fear you are getting ready to jump the shark once again.

It just feels like one of those moments where Twitter has reached its zenith. Those moments are inevitably followed by a rush of mainstream users, a watering down of what was once great, and the diehards moving on to something else.

Think of MySpace to Facebook to wherever we are now.

If you've been following recruiting the last year on Twitter, you've seen how things have changed, how they've grown, how they've started to peak.

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin might have driven that first nail into the coffin of Twitter as we know it.

"These kids are all about Twitter followers and you get offered from a school and the next day you get 4,000 followers from that school and they're all saying you should come to this school and this is the reason why," Franklin told Nashville radio station 104.5 The Zone this week. "It's not supposed to happen but there's no way to possibly control it. It has been a huge factor. Looking at it, not just in our conference, but across the country, and you see it being a major factor."

All Franklin really did, was highlight what's been happening over the last year with Twitter in regards to recruits, fans and colleges.

I first noticed the trend developing last year as the nation's top wide receiver, Laquon Treadwell, took to Twitter during his official visits to OU and OSU.

It was pretty cool, actually. Treadwell was giving real-time feedback of his visits, what he was doing, what he liked, where he was going.

Treadwell garnered a lot of attention for those updates. Soon, fans of Ole Miss and Oklahoma State figured out they could be a part of his recruiting process through Twitter.

When Treadwell visited Oklahoma State, students at OSU took to Twitter to invite him to parties all over Stillwater.

Pretty soon Ole Miss fans and OSU fans were fighting over Treadwell via Twitter, while mentioning his Twitter handle in the middle of their battles.

Stay classy college football.

The whole time Treadwell sat back and counted his new followers. Meanwhile college coaches took notice. Fans took notice. Recruits took notice.

"Social media has completely changed recruiting, and what I mean by that is, if you have a crazy fan base, if you've got a fanbase that has 105,000 and they love their team and now they're all involved with social media and they're blowing these kids up on Twitter all the time," said Franklin during his radio interview. "Two things I think have impacted recruiting more than anything is facilities, and also social media. You're not supposed to contact the recruits but you can't control it. I see that being as big an impact on recruiting as anything."

Tuesday in Dallas, I asked Bob Stoops about all these developments.

What he told me, was pretty shocking.

I figured Stoops would condemn this madness.

After all, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt seem to be the ring leaders of this Twitter recruiting fad.

Not exactly your murderer's row of college football programs.

But all three programs are currently ranked ahead of Oklahoma in the latest Rivals.com recruiting rankings for 2014.

"That's something that's becoming a part of it," said Stoops when asked if he had concerns about fans contacting recruits on Twitter. "We may hire you to govern our social media with the fans."

Whoa Stoops! You realize I think all of this is stupid right? Stop messing around.

"I'm not kidding," he said. "I don't see it stopping. Once things get rolling, it's not stopping."

So wait a minute: Stoops is just openly telling fans to contact recruits on Twitter? Something even OU's own compliance department frowns upon?

"I'm pretty sure that's what it means," said Stoops. "You hear that OU fans? We have to get on board."

You can't blame Stoops for feeling this way. Ole Miss won the Treadwell sweepstakes last season even though OU was heavily involved.

Right now the Sooners are battling the Rebels for Ty Barrett, a three-star offensive tackle from Dallas Skyline High School. Some think it will come down to OU and Ole Miss for his signature.

Barrett is very active on Twitter.

When I reminded Stoops he has a protected Twitter account and other coaches like his brother Mark Stoops, James Franklin, Kevin Sumlin and others openly cultivate Twitter followers, Stoops still bristled at the possibility of being a fan friendly Twitter user.

He may want to hire SoonerScoop to help (Editor's Note: That would never happen) but the first thing he needs to do is help himself by unlocking his Twitter account.

"I don't have the personality like those other guys do," joked Stoops.

Stoops may or may not be in a joking mood about Twitter and recruits, but one thing is certain, the NCAA can't control it. Schools can't monitor it.

Now coaches are bold enough to openly suggest fans join in and follow.

Maybe Twitter isn't about to jump the shark. But I definitely see an ugly hangover in the future.

Right now, it seems the party is just getting underway.



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