Broken Arrow running back and Oklahoma State commit Devon Thomas calls it “highly annoying.”
Four-star wide receiver Dallis Todd said “it did and it didn't” have an impact on his decision to commit to Oklahoma last spring.
Some recruits crave the attention and some loathe it, but the fact remains: As long as Twitter exists and college football fans believe their public lobbying might help snag commitments, nothing — not even NCAA bylaws and athletic department pleas — can possibly contain it.
But what tangible impact do the thousands upon thousands of tweets sent to college football recruits every day actually have on their decisions? It's difficult to tell, and mostly depends on the individual prospect.
“I've talked to some players about it, and they say it gets annoying,” Todd said. “Then there are some players who say it's good because it shows the type of atmosphere and the fan base that school has. It works both ways.”
Five-star running back Joe Mixon spent months retweeting virtually everything fans said to him on Twitter, and often encouraged supporters of his top schools to show him love.
“With Joe Mixon's recruitment, oh my goodness, he had people from UCLA, Wisconsin, OU, all the places he wanted to go, people were all over him,” said Edmond Santa Fe quarterback Justice Hansen, who committed to OU last spring. “It seemed like fans were crazy about him coming to their school.”
That passion wasn't limited to fans. During Sugar Bowl week, several former Sooners such as Tony Jefferson, Gerald McCoy and Kenny Stills tweeted at Mixon. The OU Compliance Twitter account sent out a tweet reminding former players that contacting recruits is an NCAA violation, but the request largely fell on deaf ears.
Mixon, from Oakley, Calif., committed to Oklahoma last weekend.
Josh McCuistion covers OU football recruiting for the Rivals network site SoonerScoop.com, and said he believes the impact of fan tweets is usually minimal.
“I think sometimes fans think they have a bigger role in it,” McCuistion said. “The decision doesn't come down to that. … Like anybody, the kids like the attention. They like feeling like they're in the spotlight. There's certainly some aspect that does resonate with the kids, but I don't think it's anything that tips the balance one way or another.”
Midwest City safety Will Sunderland recorded 98 tackles and five interceptions and was an Oklahoman first-team All-State selection as a junior. The four-star prospect is ranked as the 11th-best safety in the 2015 recruiting class, according to Rivals, and already has scholarship offers from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
“It doesn't really bother me,” said Sunderland, who is very active on Twitter. “Every time I put up something, they comment or retweet it. Fans that will do that for you will make you famous one day. … But it doesn't have any impact at all.”
The NCAA prohibits contact between prospective student-athletes and any “Representative of Athletics Interest,” which is broadly defined in bylaw 13.02.14.
The very next bylaw states that once an individual or entity becomes identified as such a representative, that identity is retained indefinitely.
NCAA bylaw 13.02.14:
A “representative of the institution's athletics interests” is an individual, independent
agency, corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization
who is known (or who should have been known) by a member of the institution's
executive or athletics administration to:
(a) Have participated in or to be a member of an agency or organization promoting the
institution's intercollegiate athletics program;
(b) Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics
booster organization of that institution;
(c) Be assisting or to have been requested (by the athletics department staff) to assist in
the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;
(d) Be assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or
their families; or
(e) Have been involved otherwise in promoting the institution's athletics program.