Mailing Lists: Don't Fumble the Thank You
Just a bit of disclosure before I launch into this subject…despite the fact that I am a former sports editor for a newspaper, my knowledge of NCAA football could fit onto a fortune cookie paper. But I found this bit of news quite interesting, for reasons beyond college pigskin mania.
It seems high school senior Aubrey Solomon, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive tackle from Leesburg, Ga., has decided to decommit from the University of Michigan. The reason: he was sent a thank you letter for attending the BBQ at the Big House, even though he did not attend. Also, his first and last name were misspelled.
"A day or two ago, they sent my mom a card thanking us for going to the Michigan BBQ, but we never went," Solomon said to 247Sports. "I do not know which recruit they were talking to, but it was not me. It was just a little heartbreaking, for me to supposedly be so high on their list, for them to confuse me with someone else. Plus they spelled both of my names wrong after I told them, but that was not the main issue. I guess they do not have tabs on me."
Perhaps I'm naive to the whole recruiting dance, but Solomon's perceived slight (justified or not) has put UM in danger of losing its prized recruit. Or maybe the University of Georgia offered more playing time?
The beauty (or ugliness) of mailing lists is simple — if the information fields are botched, the same mistake can be made repeatedly. When I attended college in the late 80s/early 90s, there was clearly no central database for the correspondence sent to my home. The mailing labels would call me Eric Cagle, Erik Kagel, Eric Cable or any variation thereof, depending on what department had sent the information. It was rarer still to find a mailing label with the correct version.
In this day and age, mailing list info gaffes really shouldn't happen. Such a prominent football program would likely seek to dazzle its recruits with a slick, multi-channel campaign that entails a snail mailed invitation, an email follow up/reminder and a personalized thank you note. That final piece could (for example) be a PC coated to smell like a slathered rack of ribs, featuring a player sitting in a deck chair, his pants undone from overeating, with the caption, "Hey ERIK, you'll need to hit the sled hard to work off the good BBQ eats!"
Solomon did go on to say that his mother had wanted him to go to the University of Georgia, and that when he committed to UM, he had done so "behind her back" and "this go around I will make my decision with my mother in the driver's seat." Thus, perhaps Mr. Solomon is being less than earnest in his true motives for backing out of the commitment.
That's irrelevant. If this young man truly senses a lack of personal touch and is not feeling valued by the program, shame on such a major university for not having a cleaner, crisper communication pipeline with its prized recruits.