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What's in a hashtag? A lot, it turns out

Like everything else in American life in the year of our Lord 2020, the college football recruiting process has moved online. In fact, one might even say recruiting is now Extremely Online.

Recruiting is about meeting 15-, 16- and 17-year-old young men where they are, and where they are is scrolling through Twitter and Instagram at all hours of the day and night. As such, many programs christen each recruiting class with their own class-specific hashtag.

I wanted to know how important -- or, conversely, not -- these hashtags are a recruiting department's overall strategy, so I talked to two people in the business: Texas director of recruiting Bryan Carrington and North Texas chief of staff Luke Walerius. (As of press time, Texas' 2020 class is the best in the Big 12 according to the 247Sports composite rankings, while North Texas ranks second in Conference USA.) In their own words, here is how two different recruiting professionals created their class-specific hashtags, and how those hashtags played a part in building each class. In the past, programs would and still do spend thousands on mailings to make initial contact with recruits. Now that can be done for free with the right hashtag.Carrington: When we were at Houston we had hashtags that I created that used the numbers for wordplay. Our class name after our first year was Legendary, and you take the 1-7 it would create the D and that was our hashtag. For 2018 was in Invincible and instead of the I-B it was 1-8. When we got to Texas we thought about trying to include some wordplay with the numbers 18 and 19, et cetera, but Coach Herman wanted words with UT in it. That's why we came up with Revolution.

There's more to it than simply finding a word that clicks in the dictionary, though. It has to fit with the theme of the class and the program.Walerius: I think there are a few things, for me personally it’s about intertwining that "class" mantra with the projection of our program/values of the program and having a play on words. So for me F19HTCLUB, "Fight" not necessarily fighting but being a tough person of our core values is toughness. UNTAMED20, kind of like a savage, unable to be tamed, this class is uncontrollable “in a good way.” PARAMOUNT21, this class is going to top the previous two (best in school history). Going to have a hand in taking UNT to heights never seen, they are of great importance to this program.

Carrington: Revolution was decided upon because we were in a transition, Texas had had back-to-back 5-7 years, so basically we're selling a vision to the recruits and that vision was wrapped around RevolUTion18. I would say that there's a huge importance as far as your class name is concerned because that's what your recruits are going to know you by. You want to choose something unique to the point where any time I click on the Revolution18 hashtag I see something about Texas recruiting. It becomes a catchy slogan. For the 2019 class we called fUTure19. Future was a word we toyed with because it had U-T in it, we put everything lower case and the U-T capital.

And, yes, part of the job now is to get out the old Webster's dictionary -- or, let's be honest, Google -- to find words that fit.

Walerius: I have flipped through the dictionary to find UNT words. I’ll usually come up with 2-4 and ask our staff which ones they like best. Coach (Littrell) is involved with it all. He’ll throw his ideas out and give his two cents and we will just come up with what best fits for that year and our recruiting class.

Carrington: We're running out of UT words. I looked up and down on those U-T words and so eventually we're going to have to name our class something different than what we've traditionally called it. My favorite one so far would be cloUT2020 because I feel like Clout was something that our coaches didn't go for initially but it's not about middle-aged adults perceive as cool, it's what the 17, 18-year-old mind thinks is cool. Clout is a word that has a lot of uses in the culture that the kids subscribe to today, rap and hip hop. Using that word to sell Texas, everything about this place is Clout so why not name our class Clout2020? I believe it's been really beneficial to us among the recruits because everybody wants to be part of the Clout2020 class.

The right hashtag can also be a rallying point for the recruits themselves and their families, a place to touch base as recruits embark on not just college football, but the college experience as well. 

Carrington: You try to use your hashtag not just for the initial contact but as something that can last your for the marathon that is recruiting. You need a lot of stuff surrounding your hashtag. We have graphics which is Clout2020 themed. It's a red carpet, or it's paparazzi following the kid. Something hinting towards our class name. With Revolution it was all about creating change, being the new torchbearers of Texas and revolutionizing Texas.

At the same time, you want to strike the right chord with your hashtag. Too generic, and you'll get lost in the digital sea. Too ambitious and you're negative recruiting against yourself.Carrington: If we won a national championship, we could probably call our class JuggernaUT, but you don't want to call your class something where other schools can cut you up and say, 'Hey man, you want to be a part of JuggernaUT18? They went 5-7 two years in consecutive. How are they a juggernaut?' Your hashtag is important because if it's too generic it won't help you. Like everything else in recruiting, the hunt for the next perfect hashtag never stops. Walerius: Usually around the spring time start thinking of things or start jotting down things that I like, then really plan it in late July or August.

To view FootballScoop's top recruiting graphics of #NSD2020, click here.