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The Decline Of The College Recruiting Letter

Via Amy Davidson, Sports Illustrated has a great story on the mail college coaches send high school recruits. Once upon a time coaches used to send a handful of personalized notes to a top recruiting target: UCLA's first letter to Bill Walton, for instance, read, "It has come to our attention that you are a good player. . . . Make sure to focus on academics so that when the time comes you will qualify to live the privilege of being a UCLA Bruin." But these days, the coaches basically just send the recruits impersonal junk mail no different from the stuff they receive from credit card companies. Reviewing the haul of one recent high school hoops star:

Of the 2,161 pieces of mail that arrived on Nelson's doorstep, only 200—or 9.3%—featured writing tailored specifically for him. Everything else was a form letter, a media guide, a press release or, most often, a photocopy of a page from a media guide.

Naturally, Twitter is to blame.

P.S. The S.I. piece comes 25 years after the magazine's first great story about college recruiting letters, which included a glimpse of Coach K's skeezy recruiting pitch:

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski wrote Washburn after seeing him in the stands at a high school game, "You looked in great shape, and the young lady with you did not hurt your appearance. She looked like a first class girl...." Girl friends run a close second to mothers in the influence department. Krzyzewski also sent a letter to the girl "telling her she was very nice," Washburn says. The Duke coach used a similar play on Manning. After watching Manning lead Page High to a victory over Chapel Hill, Krzyzewski wrote: "Danny, I spoke to a couple members of the Page girls' team. They had nothing but fantastic things to say about you. I stood next to them at the game and they cheered like crazy for you...."

Needless to say, the 1984 S.I. article revealed Dean Smith to be all class.

--Jason Zengerle