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VOL. 37 | NO. 4 | Friday, January 25, 2013

Experts offer opinions on sports recruiting sites

By Brandon Gee

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Sports recruiting websites are a passion for fans, but some experts believe they may not be good for the students athletes. Experts who study the business and socialogy of sports offer their opinions: 

Why has the consumption of college recruiting news become such big business?

“I call it the consumption of what might be. There are a lot of uncertainties, but people get wrapped up in the possibility that signing particular players might have an impact on their team. There’s so much passion and involvement wrapped up around college sports, and college football in particular, that it’s gone from a three- to four-month season to a 12-month season. Following recruiting news is one way to extend the season for the fan.”

— Don Roy, sports business studies coordinator at Middle Tennessee State University

What is the psychology behind this extreme level of fandom?

“It ties into people’s identification with the team. As we identify with a sports team that becomes part of our personal identity. As the team does well, we feel good about ourselves. Their success becomes our success.

“Following recruiting fits into that in two different ways. One, we can demonstrate our knowledge of the team by discussing the recruits that teams are pursuing. Secondly, I think it allows us to dream a little bit about the future.”

— Rick Grieve, professor of psychology at Western Kentucky University who studies sports fan behaviors

Fan forums and message boards on recruiting news sites are a major draw. Why?

“It becomes their (fans’) online sports bar. The message boards become your place to banter with like-minded people.

“I really see it as some kind of addiction. The people who are on these sites are on these sites quite a bit, 25 to 50 page views a day.”

— Ben Koo, Internet entrepreneur and former BuckNuts.com (Ohio State recruiting news site) contributor

Are there concerns?

“There’s really become this incredible media storm around these young student athletes. In many respects it sort of perverts childhood. It’s almost as if childhood sports has to have a distinct purpose. It can’t just be about play.”

— Dan Lebowitz, executive director of Sport in Society at Northeastern University

What methods does Rivals.com employ to, for example, determine that a high-school quarterback in Milwaukee is a bit better than one in Tampa?

“That’s like asking Arnold’s Country Kitchen what their secret sauce is.”

— Eric Winter, head of Rivals.com