While Franklin College athletics has faced many challenges in the past year for recruitment, one aspect that has flourished is social media and technology.
Athletic Director Andrew Hendricks said it has been very difficult to get prospective students on campus. And since their number one recruitment tool is campus visits, he said this development took a little toll on the athletic department’s recruitment efforts.
However, even though this past year has brought so many changes to the recruitment process, Hendricks said Franklin College will be seeing a large group of incoming athletes.
“Recruitment for athletics has gone great this year,” Hendricks said. “As a result, we have the largest, at least in my 13 years here at Franklin College, this is the largest class of athletes we’ve ever had. So, you know, athletics is going well.”
Hendricks said the department has had to be adaptive, with more things changing than staying the same.
“The personal side of [recruitment] was tougher,” Hendricks said. “What we really missed were the overnight stays; that was an opportunity in the past where a lot of recruits got to really get to know the team members. And that was a big precipitate that led to positive recruitment.”
Head Men’s Basketball Coach Brian Lebowitz said they weren’t able to bring recruits to FC games or open gyms, and he didn’t go to as many prospective students’ games because he was looking out for his own team.
“I probably attended significantly fewer high school games than I would in a normal year because I didn’t want to expose myself to COVID in the middle of our season, which we had the chance to have a pretty good team and our seniors deserved a great season,” Lebowitz said.
He said they will keep some of the practices that had to be changed because of the pandemic. For example, he wants to get more film from high school coaches since it’s a more efficient use of his and the program’s time.
“In a traditional year in high school, I would drive two and a half hours to go watch one kid play,” Lebowitz said. “Well, maybe we should just be Zooming; maybe I should be watching 10 games on my computer and then Zooming with all those kids after the game. I can all of a sudden be in all regions of the state at the same time.”
Hendricks said social media plays a big role for the athletics department—first is foremost as a way of communicating with their fan base.
“That could be anything from current athletes, to our faculty and staff, to our alumni, to our fans, to our parents,” Hendricks said. “Just getting that news out there, that of what’s going on in the department and some of the promoter ability of not just the sports, but the individual athletes, too.”
Hendricks also said social media is the athletic department’s number one way of marketing themselves. He said when a post gets shared amongst hundreds, potentially thousands of people, it creates very good press for the department.
Ryan Thomas, assistant director of athletics for communications, runs the main athletic department social media accounts, and he said he feels like he is always on social media.
“It feels like I’m spending way more time on social media than is safe or reasonable, but it’s an integral part of college athletics and, you know, the world at large today,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the department’s social media accounts are like a news outlet and gives them a chance to promote their best athletes, focusing on their accomplishments, like record-setting performances, wins, and other things.
He added that the athletic department has been using a new database called ScoreShots, which provides templates for graphics. And since they’ve started using this database, the athletic department’s accounts have become more graphic-heavy.
“You can type out the best tweet in the world—280 [characters]—but it’s way less likely to catch more eyes than if you’ve got a visual component there as well,” Thomas said.
The athletic department’s biggest focuses are Twitter and Instagram, on which people are constantly scrolling. Plain text won’t catch their eye, Thomas said, but if you’ve got a visual like a graphic, it’s going to get people to stop and look.
Lebowitz runs the men’s basketball Twitter and Instagram accounts, along with one of his assistant coaches. He said social media, like other trends, has been sped up by the pandemic. He said the men’s basketball team likes to send graphics to recruits throughout the process to make the program seem attractive.
“Once in a while, prospective students will go out and do some kind of stuff on their own, but more of the time we’re sending them a lot of digital graphics and design things throughout the recruiting process, to try to keep them engaged about hopefully attending Franklin College,” Lebowitz said.
Hendricks added the department will keep its increased efforts on social media, especially with graphics and posts for the athletes who commit to FC. He also said they will continue to use Zoom as a way of communicating with prospective students who live farther away.
Lebowitz also said some of the things that changed are better than they were before.
“But even when those things return, we should definitely keep the, always texting, always sending graphics, always in communication between our games and your games and the application process,” Lebowitz said. “And having that level of digital communication should stay, I think, elevated even as the in-person piece hopefully comes back as the world gets a little safer going forward.”