College coaches are adjusting to this generation of high school athletes by using Facebook for recruiting purposes. This is a multimillion-dollar business that social media is playing a stronger role in than ever before.

According to The New York Times, coaches use Facebook for half of their recruiting interactions. Coaches are realizing that teenagers prefer the bite-size communication of online messages instead of contact by telephone.

One example is Nerlens Noel, a 6-foot-11 high school junior and one of the top five basketball recruits nationally in his class. He has dozens of offers from schools like Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Kansas and Kentucky. June 15 was the first day coaches were allowed to contact high school juniors and Noel got 15 to 20 Facebook friend requests from coaches.

He prefers Facebook because he is allowed only an hour of free time at his prep school in New Hampshire and doesn’t want to spend it all talking to coaches on the phone. Noel has more than 4,200 friends on Facebook. He said he gets seven or eight friend requests per day and most are from fans trying to persuade him to play at their colleges.

Facebook also offers a window into a player’s life with the pictures they post, their opinions on colleges and what other coaches they are friends with (who are probably also recruiting them).

Coaches who don’t adapt to new technology could fall behind, like Southern California defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who refers to Facebook as Facemask.

Recruiting has evolved from email and phone conversations to social media partly because the NCAA banned coaches from texting athletes in 2007, citing the recruits’ expensive cellphone bills as one reason.

Restrictions on Facebook and Twitter communications have been added to the NCAA rulebook. Coaches may not contact prospects until just before their junior year of high school. They can contact athletes by Facebook message but are prohibited from contacting them through Facebook chat or writing directly on their public wall. On Twitter, coaches can send direct messages to possible recruits but not public messages.

The coaches’ phone calls are limited to once a month for juniors and twice a week for seniors, but the above mentioned social media direct messaging is unlimited during contact periods. However, there is some confusion because Facebook and Twitter messages can be received on cellphones and look just like text messages.

Readers, what do you think of college coaches using Facebook to contact high school prospects?

The NCAA Leadership Council is hoping to deregulate electronic communications between coaches and athletes and will bring its proposal to the board of directors in October.