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Recruits exploit social media

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Everything that college recruiting has become was on display for about an hour on Father's Day.

Cincinnati LaSalle High School senior-to-be Derek Kief picked that evening to announce his college destination. The final choices for the four-star, 6-foot-5, 197-pound wide receiver who caught 65 passes for 907 yards and nine touchdowns last season were Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio State.

Instead of simply announcing his choice on Twitter, the drama built with posts throughout the afternoon signaling how much longer it would be until the announcement. Then, shortly before 6 p.m., Kief -- or whoever was running his Twitter account -- retweeted an announcement by a website devoted to the player saying "Derek's announcement will be a little after 6 p.m. due to technical difficulties. Stay tuned."

Umm, what? There are technical difficulties in typing a school's name on Twitter?

Of course not. Eventually, Kief posted a YouTube video in which he unveiled his choice of Alabama on his baby sister's shirt. Several family members and friends exclaimed "Roll Tide," and "Sweet Home Alabama" played in the background.

Various websites last week rated Kief's video as an admirably inventive way to announce his future plans.

Or, it's another example of how adulation of high school athletes is spinning out of control, whether from peers, hardcore fans, the media or a combination of all of the above, and has become bigger than life. The stage that high school athletes are given, not to mention the ego-feeding that allows perspective to fly by the wayside, has grown to levels that would have been surprising 10 or even five years ago, and don't expect it to shrink anytime soon.

This is not criticism of Kief's college choice. If Alabama is his cup of tea, so be it. It's tough to argue he made the wrong choice. Even the most ardent Ohio State fan can't realistically dispute that Alabama is the country's best program right now.

Call it old-fashioned, but the best recruiting announcements take place when no one is watching. The player mulls an offer, shakes hands with his future coach and word spreads from person to person via conversation, a quiet tweet or a story in the local paper.

That's nearly impossible with today's social media. Twitter gets the word out immediately, Facebook can be effective but generally is limited to a smaller, closer-knit audience, and last week Instagram launched video functionality.

There are many reasons to grab headlines.

The simplest being that a college commitment is a big turning point in life -- right there with graduation and marriage. So if you have the opportunity to have some fun with such a watershed moment, why not take advantage of it?

No wonder commitment announcements dot the commercial breaks during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Under Armour All-America Game, and National Signing Day on the first Wednesday in February is indeed an all-day event on ESPNU. Those players have earned the national stage, and they hardly can be blamed for taking advantage if the chance presents itself.

Another reason is, in the words of Walker Cronkite, that's the way it is. College football is a 12-month per year obsession for some, as are other sports, depending on the locale. Websites are devoted to ranking players who haven't even reached high school. If an athlete doesn't devote his summer to attending skills camps and/or tournaments far and wide, the ranking and the number of stars next to his name aren't growing and, consequently, future athletic scholarship offers and opportunities won't be nearly as rife.

Less has been replaced by more. But how much more can more become?

The possibilities are endless, and maybe even a little frightening.

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