From: 500 Of Your Closest Friends :-)

On a fall night inside a tony dormitory in Princeton, N.J., a clean-cut prep schooler settles into his desk chair. The Hun School has a rule: no Internet use for two hours each evening, beginning at 7:45. Now, at 9:46, the young man logs on to his e-mail. Whoa! His head literally snaps back when he sees 200 new messages have filled his inbox in the past 120 minutes. "BOOMER Sooner!!" "Come 2 Da U!" "FIGHT ON MYRON!" This is the spam the top cornerback recruit in the country gets from fans hoping to show their love, or at least their passion.

Myron Rolle doesn't even want to know how these people get his address, much less his cell number. After all, text messages from strangers that say, "We need you bad" come across as creepy. But he has an idea about what prompted this latest e-mail wave: one of the many interviews he recently granted online recruiting services.

This is the life of a blue-chip football player in the online age. Teens jump from anonymous recruit to folk hero in the click of a mouse. And in cyberworld, a realm outside the long arm of the NCAA, recruiting sites throw journalistic ethics aside to snag the morsels of information and rumor that will feed their insatiable fans-and earn the websites millions of dollars. The constant swirl has coaches and prospects like Myron scrambling for cover.

Unlike gambling or drugs or grade-fixing, recruiting's twisted web presence impacts every scholarship player on every team. And there is little the coaches can do. "It is the worst problem to hit college football in my lifetime," says one ACC coach. "You're talking about an epidemic that started about five years ago. Every year it gets worse."

For teenagers whose celebrity had never traveled beyond their county lines, getting called from across the country can be exciting, if misleading. "Most kids don't realize what agendas they have," says another coach of the web reporters. "Even the smart kids can get fooled."

MYRON IS one of the smart ones. As his online profiles tell you, his GPA is 4.0 and he will graduate in December. They'll also tell you his height (6'2"), weight (214), 40 time (4.5) and every school he's visited. It didn't take Myron long to figure out that many of the online reporters are at best overzealous fans, at worst street agents. Still, he's lucky to have a tight-knit family helping him navigate the chaos. Two of his four older brothers,

Mordecai and McKinley, were promising high school players, though neither drew much interest from recruiters. His parents-Whitney, a manager at a financial firm, and Beverly, a secretary-have spent $21,000 so far traveling to camps and campuses to ensure that the right people notice Myron. McKinley even made a DVD of Myron's soph-year highlights, and the Rolles sent it out to 30 schools. They made sure the video mentioned his early scholarship offers, figuring they were more impressive than any guru's opinion.

Myron had first blipped the radar screen the summer after his freshman year. His parents suspected he was gifted, graced with quickness and grit. But to get a true gauge of his talents, they loaded up the minivan and took off on a 24-hour drive that ended at a camp held by one of the elite football programs in the country: Oklahoma. Most of the campers in Norman were from in-state or Texas. Some, like Adrian Peterson, had been personally invited by Bob Stoops' staff. Myron was just a nobody defensive back from Jersey-until the drills started. As Myron leapt over and ran past every 10th grader, the coaches asked his folks if they could move him up to play with the seniors. Myron dominated them, too. Stoops pulled Myron aside on the last day and said, "Come to my office."

Inside the shrine to all things Sooner, Stoops let Myron try on anything out of a box of championship rings and watches. "I've never offered a kid this early," the coach said, "but we're going to offer you a scholarship." The Rolles were shocked.

On the way back to their minivan, a reporter from Rivals.com, a recruiting website, caught up with Myron and snagged the first online interview of the young recruit's life. A flattered Myron couldn't wait out the daylong drive to taste his sudden fame, so he called McKinley from the road to have him Google the interview. "Oh, man! Look at this!" McKinley said. "It says you're the kid who came out of left field!"

The Rolles kept a close eye on Rivals after that. "They started writing about him all the time, saying Myron's gonna be a legend," says McKinley, a senior at St. John's and his brother's de facto manager. Fact is, Myron does make good copy for Rivals and their chief competitor, Scout.com. Not only is he a spectacular talent, he is the all-American boy. Class president. Former sports editor of the school paper. He even played Tevye in the school production of Fiddler on the Roof. Heck, the kid wants to be a neurologist. No wonder the Internet scouts can't get enough of him.

Myron admits to a time when he couldn't get enough of them, either. Like so many recruits, he used to spend hours reading about himself, and more reading about his competition. "The initial thrill is seeing your words up there," Myron says, "and how people respond to them." He still surfs the sites seven hours a week, which, he says, is probably half as much as he used to.

ASIDE FROM auctions and porn, few businesses are better suited to the Internet than recruiting. Football junkies hit the sites year-round for "insider" information-read: gossip-and "premium" message boards peopled by the similarly addicted. For the low, low price of $9.95 a month, both Rivals and Scout provide sites for fans of every major program, and each of those 200 sites employs reporters whose job it is to badger prospects about their latest leanings. At one point, Myron was taking as many as a dozen calls a night. These days, he's more likely to check his caller ID.

Rivals general manager Bobby Burton says his site generated 38 million page views on signing day. Scout managing editor Glenn Nelson says his site, which also covers pro and high school sports, generated 50 million. For perspective, on average, CNN.com gets 60 million hits a day. The pressure to generate this kind of traffic inevitably causes some site reporters to become part of a process they're only supposed to be observing. They push kids to say something, anything, positive about the school they cover-even if the player has already made up his mind to go somewhere else. Coaches contend that analysts even skew their recruiting rankings to favor kids who commit late in the game. "These guys want drama," says an ACC coach. "It doesn't make good play to have the top 25 players decided by the end of the summer."

Tom Lemming, one of the pioneers of the recruiting beat, has been in the business since 1979, when he had one subscriber by mail. Last year he racked up 45,000 miles crisscrossing the country to scout for his magazine, Prep Football Report. Lemming denies accusations from coaches that he sells information-and influence-to the very schools whose signees and recruiting classes he is ranking. One coach says Lemming coerced prospects to attend a photo shoot this spring by telling them he otherwise wouldn't consider them for the roster he helps put together for the U.S. Army All-American game. The shoot was held on Notre Dame's campus. "Tom Lemming is a huge Notre Dame guy," Myron says. "He kept saying to me, `You know they have a great coaching staff. You know Charlie Weis is Mr. NFL. You're an academic guy. That place is for you.' Then he killed Florida State. He said, You're stupid if you go there.' Um, okay. Thanks."

Lemming is used to being slammed. "I've had people bad-mouth me for years," he says. "I try to be honest. I rarely talk to kids. The Internet people talk to them all the time. If there's anyone influencing anyone, it has to be them."

The Rolles say favoritism on the part of the recruitniks is more rule than exception. Like mosquitoes, they begin to swarm in summer, during the NCAA's "Quiet Period." Coaches are forbidden to call recruits from June 1 to Aug. 31. The recruiting services, though, can reach out as often as they like. Last summer, Myron, not yet a junior, got more than 100 calls. "It scares coaches," says a recruiter from Conference USA. "The summer is when reporters try to befriend the kids. They talk up their own schools and crap on the others."

One budding talent broker hounded Myron every day to call Duke's coaches. Myron finally told the guy to back off. A writer for Scout's Oklahoma site tried to coax a quote from Myron about the academic parity between OU and Michigan. "He kept saying, There's no difference academically, right?' " Myron says. "I was like, What do you want me to say, it doesn't matter? Okay, it doesn't matter.' "

When McKinley, who fields most of Myron's interview requests, failed to return the call of a guy from Rivals' Michigan site, he received an e-mail that read as if it were written by an ex: "I just feel hurt. I thought we were friends. I feel like this was a slap in the face to me."

Interviews conducted for the websites follow a similar script: what are your top five schools? Tell me something good about each one. What's your 40 time? Your bench? Every reporter is hoping for a scoop from Myron-a school that's sneaked into his top five, that extra fraction of a second shaved off his 40. And the interviews come in waves. "I started to realize the game," Myron says. "There'd be a call from Michigan Scout, then Michigan Rivals, then Iowa Scout, then Iowa Rivals. These guys are competing, and I'm just the guy in the middle giving them the story."

Some reporters don't even pretend to keep their allegiances hidden. The Scout USC guy, appearing on a signing-day TV show, was crestfallen to see blue-chip WR DeSean Jackson pick Cal. "I really thought we were gonna get him," he said on air. A recent job posting on Scout's Iowa State site asked: "Would you like to make a living covering your favorite college sports team?"

In 2003, the NCAA told Kentucky the school was responsible for the actions of a fan who ran a Scout.com website on Wildcat football. The school banned the man from any contact with the program for 27 years, citing unapproved involvement with recruits. Imagine how antsy other schools must be about one day being held accountable for recruiting sites that function outside their control.

No surprise then that in May, the hot topic at the Big Ten coaches meetings was the meddling recruiting gurus and their Internet sites. There was a lot of frustration, but few solutions. One suggestion was to prohibit coaches from attending the many recruiting combines sponsored by the websites across the country. If college coaches don't show up, the theory goes, fewer kids on the prowl for scholarships will attend. Eventually, the analysts would have fewer kids to analyze and the street agents wouldn't have their fish in a barrel.

IT'S A rainy Saturday in late April, and a line snakes across the Lasch Football Complex on Penn State's campus, 400 kids waiting to register at a Rivals combine sponsored by Nike. Where the line doubles back, two dozen sets of eyes are fixed on a corner of the building. There, Myron does exercises you don't see in gym class, like a high-knee skip that would impress a Rockette. It's unclear if the gawkers are hypnotized by his contortions or the way his muscles pop through the combine-issued tank top. But everyone knows who they are staring at. One grown-up points and says to his wife, "Look, that's Rolle right there."

Over the next four hours, while Myron is admired from afar as he shuttles through the testing stations, McKinley and the rest of the family get the up-close star treatment. One baby-faced Rivals writer who works for the PSU site talks to Myron's brother, Marchant, about the virtues of the school. Later, a man from Scout's Michigan site tells McKinley how much his daughter loves UM.

It all seems harmlessly clumsy, but when fans meet recruits, even under the guise of journalism, boosterism has to be a concern. Rivals requires anyone who is contacting a recruit on behalf of its network to sign a code of ethics, stating that under no circumstances shall a reporter recruit for a school or act as a booster. But pact or no pact, the Rolles are skeptical about the integrity of the entire industry. "These jokers figure if they can call Myron every day and nurture a relationship, they can influence him," says his dad. "They do it to be, for lack of a better term, groupies."

Unlike Myron, many recruits aren't savvy enough to see the difference between these interviewers and traditional media. "Myron Rolle was an editor of his high school paper," says one ACC coach. "He actually has more journalism experience than most of the guys interviewing him."

Even for the Rolles, it's hard to not get worn down. The give-and-take of the message boards can get particularly personal. "Rolle is slow" … "I'm not seeing a hitter"… "He doesn't show anything on his film" … "He's a smart guy. We need thugzz!" Myron and his family read it all and admit they are sometimes tempted to take the bait. Earlier this spring, a picture of Myron posing with two girls at a youth conference popped up online. In the photo Myron is wearing a Michigan T-shirt. It prompted one fan from an opposing school to post, "I wouldn't want a kid who hung out with girls like that on my team anyway."

Coaches hate reading that kind of stuff even more than the Rolles do. "Our fans are really negative," says one recruiting coordinator. "If they don't think we're going to get a kid, it can get personal. We really have to do a lot of defusing." Most schools have someone in the football office monitor what's said online by disgruntled fans.

Since whittling his list to eight schools—Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Penn State, Oklahoma and Texas—Myron has cut down on the interviews. Now his family is turning the tables. They use the website interviews to ensure that Myron gets the most from each school visit he makes.

After Myron returned from a trip to Oklahoma in March, he divulged in an online interview that he not only spent time with Bob Stoops, but met with OU president David Boren and the Sooners team doctor, not to mention Barry Switzer. Guess what happened on his visit to Miami a week later? In addition to quality time with Larry Coker, Myron sat with UM president Donna Shalala and a biochemistry professor from the med school. And—what a coincidence!—he bumped into Jimmy Johnson. It's been the same treatment at every school since.

Myron says he has gotten all he needs out of the recruiting experience. He plans to announce his decision at the end of August. "It's time to shut it down," he says.

He's had enough of the game.