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NCAA to send texting message

The Baltimore Sun

Cliff Tucker had just left Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams' office and was ready to start a tour of Comcast Center when his cell phone buzzed, indicating a text message had just arrived.

We're still interested.

Tucker, a highly touted recruit from El Paso, Texas, ignored the message from an assistant coach at Connecticut. Unbeknownst to Maryland assistant coach Keith Booth, who was leading the 6-foot-5 swingman down the hall to show off the weight room, Tucker's phone buzzed with a second message.

It was UConn. Again.

Give us a call.

"I didn't answer because I was walking with Coach Booth," said Tucker, who signed a letter of intent last week to play for the Terps. "After that, I forgot about it."

It appears UConn and every other Division I college coach can soon forget about it, too. The NCAA's Board of Directors is expected to approve a ban on text messaging with recruits at its meeting Thursday in Indianapolis, putting the rule into effect in August. The board typically passes recommendations from the 49-member management council. If it doesn't, coaches can continue to barrage prospects with their digital devotions - a recruiting tool that has caused concern and debate about its intrusiveness and expensiveness.

While coaches around the Atlantic Coast Conference have mixed feelings about the NCAA's impending ban, the one thing they seem to agree on is that it's the first of more rules eventually expected, as technology continues to provide new loopholes to contacting high school standouts. Who's to say coaches won't "poke" a prospective recruit on his or her Facebook page?

"As old as the history of football, there's always been somebody that moves a step ahead," said 77-year-old Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "If you cut this out, they find another way to do it. I'm sure if they cut out the text messaging, us coaches will come out with some kind of other messenger system. If they do cut it out, that's a start."

Mount St. Joseph basketball coach Pat Clatchey said he, too, has received text messages from college coaches in pursuit of his athletes. He's also wondering what's next.

"My stance has been, regardless of what NCAA legislation takes place, college coaches, they're just going to find ways of being creative to be in touch and be in contact with prospective student-athletes," Clatchey said. "This is a cycle that just continues. ... They're going to find ways to be creative. Not to say they're going to bend the rules, per se, but their livelihood is based upon recruiting players and a lot of that is communicating and developing relationships with those players."

Shane Lyons, an assistant commissioner with the ACC who is also on the Division I management council, said everyone is aware this is just one step toward tackling the technology.

"Like anything, it's what's next? What are we going to have to tackle next?" Lyons said. "Technology is so advanced there's always another way around the rule and to get the prospect. I'm not sure what's out there, and we'll just have to wait as a membership and see. Technology is advancing so fast, we don't know what the next issues will be. We did away with text messaging. Three years ago, no one really used it."

Georgia Tech football coach Chan Gailey called the management council's decision a "knee-jerk reaction."

"In two years we're going to have something that takes the place of text messaging, and we'll be looking to have a rule against whatever that is, and then we'll have another one in two more years," he said. "The ones who don't want text messages, they can cut it off anytime they want to. I think it's an issue we're making too much out of. If mamas and daddies don't want it, don't put it on your phone."

The debate also has brought to light a generational gap among coaches.

"That's out of my range, age-wise," Bowden said of text messaging.

His son, though, has become an expert.

"I do it every day and I do it a lot," said Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden. "I've done it today. Though I voted against it. I voted to ban it totally. It really infringes upon their time. The telephone calls are enough. ... I just didn't think it created a healthy environment."

Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese has gotten a dose of her own digits. Since word has spread about an opening on her staff, Frese said she has received about 50 text messages a day from up-and-coming coaches seeking a job, or from other coaches who want to vouch for them.

"It's insane," she said. "I'm probably more in tune to what they're going through. It's a distraction. I think they're putting it in for the right reasons. It's not good. There does need to be some restraints brought back on the cell phone usage."

Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen is a tech-savvy coach who can download tunes into his iPod, and knows how to send a text message or two. He seemed indifferent, though, about losing his right to text recruits.

"I've done it quite a bit," he said. "I think it's a way to communicate. I understand the expense that goes to prospects and I think that should be taken into consideration. I'm willing to adapt to what they feel is necessary to do. Text messaging is like a phone call and should be considered as such, but I don't know how they can monitor that."

Lyons said that it's as simple as checking the phone records, and that several phone companies said they could keep a record of a text going to a number anywhere from 30 days to a year.

"I'm not sure where there's room for interpretation on that," Lyons said. "So if a coach says I didn't know I did it, it's kind of hard. There's documentation. It's a little hard to plead ignorance."

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