College recruiting can become a tangled web on the Internet
By Norman Arey, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff, 1/25/2000

Growing up in Cullman, Ala., Wesley Britt was a huge Auburn fan.

But when Britt grew into one of the top offensive linemen in the southeast, he attracted a lot of attention from Auburn as well as other schools.

And when the 6-7, 289-pound lineman backed off of Auburn during the recruiting process and let it be known that his final two choices were Florida and Alabama, here's what appeared on the internet.

In the hundreds of chat rooms across the southeast, it was written that Tommy Britt, Wesley's father, had gotten into an argument with an Auburn professor. The story was so specific, it mentioned where this alledged altercation took place, and on which football weekend the Britts had visited.

Only problem was, the Britts were nowhere near Auburn that weekend and Tommy Britt had no argument with anybody at Auburn, and has yet to meet his supposed antagonist.

"You can't imagine," said Vera Britt, Wesley's mother. "There were all kinds of rumors going around when Wesley backed away from Auburn."

The Britts are a fairly typical family which has a child going through the recruiting process. Vera Britt determined that the internet was one of the ways she could find out what was going on in college football recruiting and quickly became proficient on the computer. "We would check out the school's history, the coaching staff, who a particular school was recruiting. I felt the more we knew, the better decision Wesley could make."

Carlos Andrews, rated the 16th best defensive back in the country, says he uses the internet to check out what people and schools are saying about him. "I just try to find myself and other players in the state of Florida," said the Tallahassee native. "I looked at it to see where I was needed the most. Alabama needed help in the secondary."

Bill O'Brien, the recruiting coordinator at Georgia Tech, says the internet has been both a blessing and a curse.

"So much is going around on recruiting (on the internet)," he said. "If you're recruiting, let's say, a wide receiver, and the kid finds out that you're recruiting three other receivers, he'll want to know what's going on.

"You're always explaining things. The internet helps and it hinders."

Alabama recruiting coordinator Ronnie Cottrell, rated one of the top recruiters in the nation, says he's very aware of what's happening on the internet. "My impression is that there are very few secrets because of the internet," he said. "In a matter of minutes, you can get good solid information from a university's web site," Cottrell said, "but there are so many websites out there that deal in rumors and many times, the recruits get misled.

"I very rarely go in for a home visit when I'm not confronted with something they've seen or heard on the internet," he said. "I'm always having to dispell some rumor. And it's very seldom positive, it's usually negative."

Darius Williams, a 6-6 tight end from Avondale, is very specific in what he expected from the internet. "I wanted to see who else had committed, what position they played, and who else the schools were looking at," he said. "I was on it (the internet) today and I down-loaded a picture of myself. I've become a fan of the internet."

When Wesley Britt cut his choice to Florida and Alabama, he said that initially, Alabama was in the lead. "I got on the chat rooms for Alabama and Florida," Wesley said. "The fans just talk to each other and they seemed like they knew me."

The winds of recruiting can change fast as Wesley found out. "One time, when Alabama was in the lead, people at Florida said things (on the internet) like 'That's all right, we don't need people from Alabama anyway.' And another one said 'People from Alabama should stay the hell out of Florida.'"

But the younger Britt says the pendulum didn't swing that way when he decided that perhaps Florida was the best place for him. "Florida had fair weather fans," he said. "They started liking me again. But the Alabama fans said nice things the whole time."

Britt has given the Crimson Tide a verbal commitment and says he's firm in that commitment.

Vera Britt says the internet recruiting grapevine amazes her still. "After Wesley got off the phone to tell Alabama he was coming and to tell Florida he wasn't, I went upstairs to post it on the internet," she said, "and it was already on the internet. How could that be? How could they know that quickly?"

She also admitted she took the opportunity to tell folks Wesley's side of the story. "I wouldn't post anything while Wesley was still going through the recruiting process," she said. "As soon as he committed, I went in to set some people straight. I told them the truth."

"The biggest thing is there's a lot of misinformation out there," said Lance Thompson, the former Georgia Tech recruiting coordinator and now defensive line coach at Alabama. "But sometimes it's useful. A lot of these kids will tell a recruiting analyst something they might not want to tell a coach.

"The fans get on the internet and run down other schools" he said. "When I go see somebody, I tell them I work for the University of Alabama and I talk about our school. It's hard enough for me to keep up with what's going on at our place, much less worry about what other schools are doing.

"To me, the internet is almost entertainment," Thompson said. "The thing I find amusing is that people rate kids and give them numerical value, but they're just making money."

"If it's written down, we have to answer to that," Cottrell said. "It's something about having it written on paper."

"The internet is just another scource of information for me," said O'Brien. "I'm seeing what people are saying. Sometimes you learn what to address and what not to say. The way I see it, there's no disadvantage to it."

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