Coaches' views run gamut on text messaging

Updated: April 26, 2007, 6:25 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Early Tuesday morning, a text message arrived from 72-year-old Arizona coach Lute Olson.

Lute Olson
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesLute Olson has taken a leave of absence from Arizona before. He stepped away to be with his wife, Bobbi, before she died in 2001.

It said that he didn't want to call me back too late, so he would ring me up in the morning.

Wednesday evening, another text came in, this one from Kansas coach Bill Self saying he had finished a meeting with his player, Brandon Rush, about whether to enter the NBA draft.

Whenever Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt needs to let his players know something, whether it's practice time or a change to a schedule, the players usually receive a text message.

Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said he received a text message from a Philadelphia reporter this week about a story on the subject. The problem for Martelli was that he didn't know how to reply on his phone.

Therein lie some of the issues that basketball coaches faced before learning that the NCAA board of directors on Thursday approved a proposal that prevents coaches from sending text messages to prospective recruits.

The majority of coaches do text each other, colleagues, media, current players and recruits. But the coaches' association was split 50-50 as to whether recruits should receive text messages because of the infringement on their daily lives. The opinions on this subject are quite varied.

"We shouldn't be allowed to do it. How do you monitor just Friday to Sunday?"
-- Oregon coach Ernie Kent

They range from Pitt coach Jamie Dixon saying each text message should count like a phone call because there is a limit of one call a week to a recruit to Hewitt saying text messaging a recruit should be allowed only on the weekends to Oregon's Ernie Kent saying, "We shouldn't be allowed to do it," and adding, "How do you monitor just Friday to Sunday?"

Maryland coach Gary Williams and Gonzaga coach Mark Few were both on the side of Kent, saying they had no problem eradicating the practice.

"I don't really care," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "No one has gotten a player through text messaging."

Count North Carolina coach Roy Williams as another coach who uses text messaging sparingly.

But there does seem to be a consensus brewing that text messaging has allowed coaches to get at least some sort of relationship going with players. Hampton coach Kevin Nickelberry said he is tired of all the rules that prevent a coach from getting to know a player. He said the quick text messages at least open that door up a bit. Nickelberry took the leap that if text messaging is gone, more players will transfer because coaches won't know them as well.

Jim Boeheim
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesSyracuse's Jim Boeheim is for a text messaging ban.

"It's a good way to communicate without being too invasive," said Olson, who is easily one of the most tech-savvy coaches. "I'd rather send a text and say, 'Give me a call if you feel like it.' We can put it in their hands, and if they want to text, they can. If the kid doesn't call you, then you'll probably know they're not as interested. It used to be that kids would stay away from home to avoid the phone ringing all the time. Texting doesn't drive the parents nuts. They don't see it. Since it's a way the kids communicate, it should be left alone."

Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson, who wasn't allowed to make phone calls during his first year at Indiana because of excessive phone calls at Oklahoma, said: "I just learned how to text message, and now I'll have to learn how to e-mail. It's just so easy to text message. I understand what they're saying about taking the kids' free time away and it being expensive. All it means now is that e-mails will be huge."

And, of course, a number of phones have e-mail on them, too.

"The next thing we'll do is take away the phone calls," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "We'll eliminate home and campus visits, too, and we'll guess who we should award scholarships to. It's a complete overreaction. They should control it, legislate it but don't eliminate it completely. It's a way for me to establish a relationship with a young man without harassing the family [on the phone]."

National Association of Basketball Coaches president Jim Boeheim of Syracuse said he would be in favor of a limit of one text message a week. But he also said, "I'm against it. I don't text message. I don't know how."

At the end of the day, maybe that's why the management council wanted to get rid of it in recruiting. There is such a wide spectrum of who knows how to text, who does it and how often coaches do it that without a consensus, the best way to legislate it is to get rid of it entirely. Now that the ban is in effect, all that will occur is the coaches will turn to e-mails even more heavily before they're allowed to text their players on campus about the practice schedule.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com