The ties binding the lines of communication in college basketball recruiting were snipped back on June 15.
Thanks to a decision in October 2011, the NCAA lifted its restrictions on text messaging between college coaches and high school players. When the ruling went into effect this summer, the college basketball world waited to learn its impact.
Three months have passed.
Discussing the effects of unlimited text messaging, Tennessee men's coach Cuonzo Martin pointed out an unexpected benefit.
The gray area is suddenly black and white.
Prior to the rule, "dead periods," long stretches when any communication between coaches and recruits was forbidden, left Martin and his fellow coaches wondering where they stood with coveted recruits. Sure, recruiting news outlets would report players' "lists," but concrete confirmation from a recruit himself couldn't be obtained. Unless, of course, one was willing to risk improper contact with a recruit — an NCAA no-no.
Now, Martin said, he doesn't have to spend time chasing his own tail on the recruiting trail. The ambiguity of players' interest was eliminated soon after the clock stuck midnight on June 15.
"For recruits, it got everyone excited, but then after a while, like anything else in recruiting, the recruits start narrowing down their lists," Martin said. "With (the rule change), they can do it even without saying it. If they don't return a text, that means it's been narrowed down. … Then you're able to hone in on guys and go from there."
It's like dating. If she doesn't call you back, it's time to move on.
Martin said it has been "a fine balance" in adjusting to the new policy. Is the staff texting a particular recruit too much? Too little? The past three months have offered a lesson in tact.
"What we try to do with kids and their parents is tell them, 'If there are certain dates or certain times when you don't want calls or texts coming
in, just let us know,' " Martin said.
During the Vols' 10-day Italian tour in July, Martin could often be seen thumbing his smart phone and snapping pictures. He said his goal was to use the trip to his advantage in the recruiting process. Texts flew back stateside.
"I was texting constantly — texting pictures all night long," Martin said. "Because of the time difference, it was hard to sleep. So when it was midnight or 1 o'clock in Italy, it was 6 or 7 o'clock in the States. So I was sending texts and making calls."
Recruits received pictures of Martin and his family smiling at Italy's countless landmarks, he said. Shots of the Vols posing as a team soon followed.
Martin hopes the work pays off this fall. Today will bring 6-foot-8 combo forward A.J. Davis to campus, as the News Sentinel reported last weekend.
Kevon Looney, a 2014 recruit, took an unofficial visit on Friday.
High-profile recruits Jonathan Williams III and Robert Hubbs from West Tennessee are scheduled for official visits in conjunction with Tennessee's highly anticipated meeting with Florida at Neyland Stadium next weekend.
Davis, a Class of 2013 recruit from Buford (Ga.) High School, is the son of 13-year NBA veteran Antonio Davis. He'll be on hand for today's football home opener against Georgia State.
Martin is unable to comment on specific recruits per NCAA rules, but when asked if spending 10 days abroad had any negative impact on recruiting, he said, "I don't think we lost anything there."
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn