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Catfishing and recruiting: Houshun Gaines' cautionary tale

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

As three-star defensive lineman Houshun Gaines prepared to make his college choice in a ceremony at his school on Friday afternoon, he was expected by most to pick either Virginia Tech or NC State. Instead, he verbaled to Florida, and that's when everything took a strange turn.

Gaines had been regularly communicating with someone on social media who he thought was Gators defensive line coach Brad Lawing. That Friday, Gaines said he'd talked to Lawing the night before. There was no reason for Gaines to think there'd be an issue with picking Florida.

As it turned out, though, Gaines had been communicating with someone posing as Lawing--he hadn't had contact with an actual UF staff member for weeks, and contrary to whatever he was being told by the impostor, he did not have a committable offer from Florida.

[Nash Central AD] Mosley said that Florida coaches expressed on Friday that they still have interest in Gaines (they did after all verbally offer him last spring when they passed through Nash Central High) but that interest isn't to the point of accepting a verbal commitment.

"There is a commitment from Florida, but it's not a commitment as far as what took place (on Friday). They want to see more from him, and that's their exact words," Mosley said.

Setting up an authentic-looking fake account on Twitter is a piece of cake. Twitter is littered with fakes as a result; some are cries for attention that are just plain weird--there was (is?) a fake C.J. Leslie account while he was in school that was totally harmless, for example. Whoever was behind the thing simply posed as Leslie to collect a bunch of followers to boost the ol' ego or whatever. The worst that account did was cause confusion.

Others are made for pranks, and those can do some damage, as Gaines learned painfully. It's pathetic that somebody would think it amusing to mislead a high school kid, and do so to such a degree that it causes real-world headaches and screws with that kid's life.

Gaines, for his part, seems to be taking it in stride.

And he'll still land at a power-conference school. I'd be happy to see Gaines end up at NC State, but I'll be happier if he does eventually get a committable offer from Florida, putting this cruel mess behind him for good.