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False Advertising: Catchy Slogans and the Race to Win the Hearts and Minds of High School Recruits

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The world of college football recruiting is full of slogans, catch phrases and hashtags. Why are they all so misleading?

Via @coach_Doyle

The general line of thinking on this here amalgamation of Iowa fan and blogger opinions has historically been that caring about recruiting is creepy. Sure, we all get a little creepy once in a while, but we don’t really care. Well, at least not until the team isn’t doing well and we need to blame the coaching staff for not recruiting well enough or to focus on how well they are doing it for next season so we can find some hope for the future.

Given that pretense, I suppose it’s possible to have missed the point at which schools across the country really began investing in their recruiting offices. I’m not just talking about having their staff head out on the road to identify and evaluate talent or hiring a recruiting coordinator. No, I’m talking about having a full staff of people dedicated to managing social media, designing new graphics and edits to send out in mailers to prospects and spam them on places like Twitter.

And that’s where things appear to have come off the rails to me, a self-admitted creep who tends to care more than the average Pants commenter. The issue I have isn’t necessarily that staffs across the country are investing so heavily in social media campaigns or graphic designs. If it works, I don’t know why you wouldn’t do it. But with all the social media advertising, and that’s exactly what it is — not recruiting but advertising — we now get to see just how blatantly some schools are willing to lie to prospects’ faces. No, we don’t get to hear the one-on-one sales pitch about playing time or how much a school wants a player. But we do get to see schools publicly claiming things that we all know to be false, and they tend to do it most through the use of hashtags.

***I’ll pause here for those of you who have managed to avoid the Twitter machine (it is literally the second greatest website on the planet behind only this here fine establishment so definitely mosey over and see what all the fuss is about) and just note that a hashtag is something attached to the end of a tweet, or message, that allows the note to be found easily through a search for that tag. #TwitterHelp***

At our dear old University of Iowa, the #Hawkeyes don’t appear to be quite as guilty of this sin as some of our peers. For example, Iowa football typically tags recruiting news, such as commitments, with #Swarm19 or #SwarmWhateverYearTheRecruitIsFrom. It’s an obvious reference to the swarm the Hawkeyes take when the enter the field of play in Kinnick and doesn’t really have any misleading qualities.

I would say the same can essentially be said for their #IowaEdge tag they like to throw on news around the interwebz regarding former Hawkeyes making money in the NFL or current ones putting in the work to get better either in the weight room or elsewhere. The implication is part of what makes Iowa good is the work they put in off the field - it gives them an edge. My hesitation here is everyone does this, but given the successful track record of Doyle and the transition of 2-star athletes into NFL-caliber players, I can’t blame the staff for wanting to accentuate that history.

But what about other schools? It might surprise you to know that players in the NFL who went to Bama wouldn’t have gotten there without the Tide, they were #BuiltByBama. Yeah, apparently those five star kids are actually fabricated and assembled in Tuscaloosa much the way the 2-stars are molded in Iowa City. I guess recruiting really doesn’t matter!

Both those guys were top-75 recruits nationally when they went to Alabama. Hamilton was a 4-star and Evans was a 5-star and the number 14 recruit in the country. There was little building left to do. I think it might be more accurate to say #RecruitedByBama or #BoughtByBama, but I suppose that wouldn’t sell kids quite the same.

Or what about our friends over in Champaign? Oh, right, you’ve probably only heard to it referred to as #Littyville.

***Another pause here to explain to the older crowd that “lit” is not just a mental state after a handful of IPAs or 15ish Busch Lights, it’s also what the kids are calling an exciting place these days.***

That’s right, those marketing geniuses over at Illinois are referring to one of the Big Ten’s dumpiest, least exciting towns as #Littyville. And recruits are buying that garbage. The Illini (#ILLgang19) recently snagged a 4-star DB out of Dallas’ Bishop Dunne (hey, we had one of those once upon a time!) and have some real momentum on the recruiting trail for a team that has more coaching changes than bowl appearances this decade.

Please. Anyone that’s actually been there knows it’s #Shittyville.

But I’ll give the Illini this: at least they are using their own thing, unlike our, uh, friends to the west. Those guys in Ames are using about 30 different hashtags and not a one of them is their own. There’s #AStormIsBrewing (Twitter search that one at your own risk - NSFW thanks to recent events), #RaiseTheStandard, which about 5 other schools are also using, #CyclONENation, which seems a bit redundant, what with the word nation being singular and all, and now the newest iteration is #WinInTheDark. I haven’t dared to search on that last one given what I found with #AStormIsBrewing, but I have a feeling that one may not end well either.

I’ll give Matt Campbell this, if there’s one thing we all know he can do, it’s sell. What, exactly, he’s selling is up for debate, but sell he will. And at least his hashtags seem to make some semblance of sense. I can’t say the same for that over-caffeinated dude in Minneapolis.

PJ Fleck and the Golden Gophers can’t stick to one hashtag either, but theirs are all over the map. There’s #RTB, which, cool, row the boat, cuz you know, there’s no engines around or anything and football has always been played in water. Then there’s #SkiUMah, which literally nobody understands, but from my experience skiing doesn’t translate well to the gridiron. And then there’s #HYPRR. I dunno #WTF that means, but it’s stupid.

***Note, Google tells me PJ Fleck claims it means “How’s Your Process Result Response,” which isn’t exactly English and I feel like I understand it less now.***

This says nothing of all his #Elite crap. You know what’s elite? Not going 5-7. Not Minnesota. At least not since World War II.

Fleck uses so many damn hashtags and catch-phrases you literally need a guide. And Fleck is so damn cheesy he is the one to spell it out for you.

Guys, these coaches make me want to #BreakTheRock with my head.

I’ve never been more glad to have Kirk Ferentz as our head coach.