"If the video is professionally done or the website is over the top or done through a recruiting service, a lot of times that's a red flag and maybe they're not the most talented athlete or they're trying to do some salesmanship," Butts said.
Full videos give the coaches a full view of the gymnast. What happens during the routine is as important as what happens after. Doak said a gymnast's "demeanor" before or after a performance comes across on video. Attitude can bind or divide a gym.
"There have been reactions they had that completely tuned me away from recruiting kids," Butts said.
Getting to what's important
Amateur antics can be difficult to navigate, too. Many videos start with an introduction or an interview that allows the gymnast to offer a brief biography before the video moves on to the routines.
"Those can be kind of awkward," Butts said. "They're sitting in front of the fireplace telling us about her life. It's kind of weird."
There are many who understand the competition for attention. There are countless videos available for coaches to peruse and sometimes a gymnast will go to an extreme to get a coach's attention. Doak remembers one video where a gymnast introduced herself and then performed a five-minute handstand.
"I just remember sitting there thinking, 'What is going on?'" Doak said.
That gymnast ended up competing for a pretty good school, though.
"The really weird ones to me are the ones that show themselves completely crashing and burning, which I don't know why you'd want that info out there, or the ones who are trying to learn a new skill and they're very much in the beginning stage and you can tell they're never going to be able to do it," Butts said. "But they still send it to you. Those are the ones that make you go, 'Why are you showing me this?'"
Trampoline isn't a college event, which would suggest WVU's coaches wouldn't have need for videos of a prospect on that apparatus. Yet Butts said those are valuable clips because coaches can observe the ability needed for trampoline and project it to vault or floor exercise.
"You see a kid on a trampoline who can twist forward or backward or do multiple flips or twist into flips and everything and it's a good example of someone who is spatially aware in the air," Butts said. "That's huge for us. We know, if you have good spatial awareness, we can vastly increase the number of skills and options we have for them at our level."
'Ground work' still essential
The coaches still use contacts to find recruits. They search for scores at competitive meets and track a prospect's progress. Eventually, the Mountaineers find about 20 names they'll focus on that year. Doak and assistant Bridget Boyd do a lot of that "ground work," as Butts calls it, before they start forwarding names and videos to Butts.
"I trust them completely," Butts said. "About 99 percent of the time they send me a video, I like the kid. Then we just go to the gyms to see them."
While WVU spends less time sorting and evaluating footage now, Butts said WVU spends more money on recruiting. The Mountaineers find themselves more educated about prospects and then more invested in visiting them in gym settings. It's hard to argue with the tactic, though.
Butts said the Mountaineers have had unexpected success the past few years by getting to know a gymnast's video before they got to know her at a club WVU didn't have a relationship with before.
"We're able to go out and actively pursue people we did not know about in the past," Butts said.
There are other tales of validation. Jaida Lawrence, who was a freshman this past season, competed in Connecticut, but Doak discovered her at a national competition. He came back to the office and showed the video to Linda Burdette, the head coach at the time, and Butts, who was an assistant.
"The first time I watched her vault on YouTube, it was amazing," Butts said. "I was like, 'OK, we need that.'"
Other success stories involve more luck than travel. Rising senior Amanda Carpenter was the Pennsylvania all-around champion as a high school sophomore in 2008, but didn't have a lot of attention after that.
"We didn't know anything about her," Doak said. "Turns out she was injured and hadn't competed in a year. We went back and found video of her and all of a sudden it was, 'Wow, who is this kid?'"
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.