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Case 13 RealRecruit

Protecting Student Athletes

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Along with attention to fair equitable treatment, and the welfare and well-being of employees in organizations,1 there is an increased focus on how students—and in particular student-athletes—are treated once they matriculate to an institution of higher education.2 The issue has attracted significant attention in the popular press, from print to television to Internet to live streams and more. Some cases have risen to the level of high profile scandals relating to how members of university staff, athletics teams officials, and members of university administration have treated student athletes.

Among high profile university sexual abuse cases reaching the public eye, the behaviors of players, coaches, athletics trainers, sports medicine practitioners, as well as high-ranking university administrators including presidents and members of boards of trustees have all been brought into question. What can be done to get on top of these situations before they get out of hand and protect student athletes from being damaged through misbehavior in universities?

The ubiquitous availability of sophisticated communications and data transmissions technologies has fundamentally transformed the business landscape in areas including operations management, inventory management, research and development, manufacturing, recruitment, selection, training, marketing/advertising, sales, service, as the tip of the iceberg. Can the same be said of Title IX and collegiate athletics?

Not surprisingly, technologies are fundamentally changing the ways in which student athletes make decisions about what program to matriculate to following acceptance to a college or university. A prime example is RealRecruit. Unless you are a highly recruited, high-profile Division I athlete, then the chances are good that you haven’t heard of RealRecruit. But, the company—which makes heavy use of virtual communications technologies—is making real waves in the world of collegiate athletics.

Founded by David Chadwick, a former collegiate basketball player at Rice and Valparaiso,3 RealRecruit helps universities and athletics departments administrators manage their culture, and head off emergent issues before they become major—potentially catastrophic—issues.4RealRecruit’s technology platform collects data and information anonymously, from current student athletes. This information is put into a database that the company makes available to university employees and officials, using a format that allows key decision makers to see what’s happening in broad strokes on the ground, but doesn’t compromise the identity of the key informants. The goal is to provide rich and ideally real-time feedback so that decision makers can stay on top of the situations faced by student athletes.

RealRecruit was started by Chadwick as a class project in school, and was designed to operate as a Yelp-type interface5 to give prospective scholarship athletes the inside scoop into a given program. The “scoop” was to come directly from current student-athletes, those in the best positions to give real insights into what a given program was like and what it was like to be part of it. The goal was to develop a real-time, public database that athletes being recruited could use to make a more informed decision about where to go.

Chadwick’s initial idea changed when he first tested out the system. Once his program went live, he found that what student athletes shared was a lot more serious—reports of sexual assaults, hazing, drugs, sexual abuse, bullying and misconduct by coaches, other students, teammates, and everything in between. With this realization, Chadwick shifted RealRecruit away from his initial vision as public database and toward life as an anonymous channel where officials associated with the Athletics Department could learn about what’s going on at their school—directly from the athletes and people involved in their programs.

RealRecruit has grown its client base to include over 70 universities. It has become a channel for administrators and university officials to communicate directly with student-athletes while simultaneously gaining lots of feedback and maintaining students’ anonymity. The real-time feedback made possible by the platform gives university officials an opportunity to get ahead of problems before they get out of hand. The availability of this valuable information puts university officials into the driver’s seat so they can get ahead of a scandal. It also puts them on the spot, because when something bad happens they’re no longer in a position to say—“We didn’t know.”

RealRecruit also is being used to help schools and athletics departments generate real-time ratings of the members of its athletics employees and staff by the stakeholders most directly knowledgeable of their performance—the student-athletes. This gives schools another layer of feedback that can be used for developmental purposes to improve the performance of these employees. The company is helping colleges and universities improve oversight of employee performance and the treatment of student-athletes, and see what’s happening in the Athletics Departments at these institutions.

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