Do College Recruiters Really Check Social Media?

I had the pleasure of meeting with a Division I golf coach yesterday to talk about the college recruiting and scholarship process. I am going to leave his name and school out so that I don’t make his job any more difficult than it already is.

college-golf-2Coach’s job is a competitive one – he competes for players and his team competes to have a winning program.

The winning program part is pretty straightforward. If his squad wins more than it loses, he is likely to keep his job. If he wins way more than he loses, he’ll probably get a better job. Of course, winning is not only determined by his players’ practice and solid coaching; winning is predicated on selecting the right players.

At the same time that student athletes are competing for scholarships and roster spots, coaches are competing for talent, on a limited budget and subject to some constraints. In this coach’s case, he has 4.5 scholarships to offer per year to fill his 8 – 10 player roster. He needs to use them wisely.

In addition to caring about winning and losing, a real risk to coach is bringing in a player who will embarrass the school, which could also cost him his job. For that reason, while his school’s compliance department is vetting the athlete’s academic credentials, the coach himself is required to make a subjective determination of whether the player is a good risk. In the case of this coach, he has three main weapons at his disposal for making the assessment:

  1. Talking to the player
  2. Talking to the parents
  3. Google

Surprised by number 3? You shouldn’t be. Instances of athletes losing scholarship offers because of inappropriate online content and behavior are becoming far more common.

For coach to evaluate a player, in addition to looking at his playing stats and record, he needs to go watch him play in a tournament somewhere. This is a big time commitment. As part of the check before seriously going to see a player, coach routinely does a Google search, and then checks some social media sites – usually Facebook and Twitter. In his words, “Basically, I’m looking for reasons not to recruit a player.”

He tells me that at his current school, he has removed players from his list without a second thought because of something that he has seen online. It doesn’t even have to be that serious. If there is anything questionable, he just moves on to the next player.

As a student aspiring to an athletic scholarship, you might think that this doesn’t sound fair. It doesn’t have to be.  If you want to maximize your chances at a full ride, make sure there is nothing online that paints you in anything other than the most positive light.


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