The more you know…

Part of the reason we weren’t exactly sure how to cover yesterday’s Cody Zeller Facebook group kinda-sorta story was that we didn’t know exactly what the ramifications were or could be. Our latest NCAA Manual is from 2009 and it doesn’t say a lot in there about social media.

In addition to the Facebook group, there was another social media incident in which freshman Victor Oladipo tweeted at Yogi Ferrell and asked if he was coming for a visit to Indiana this weekend. So for clarification on both situations, we consulted the NCAA. Based on what we got from them, Oladipo seems to be in the clear for the Ferrell tweets, and would seem to be OK on the Facebook group situation, though there’s slightly more gray area there.

The NCAA’s explanation for player-recruit relations and social media follows.

There are specific ways that student-athletes can assist in the recruiting process. They can communicate via email and phone with prospects, as long as it is not at the direction of their coaches or athletics staff.  They can assist with official visits as well by serving as a student host.

Student-athletes are not able to publicly comment on a prospect’s athletics ability or likelihood of signing with a school, just as coaches are not permitted to make these types of comments.

Regarding social media, we recognize student-athletes and prospects can and do develop relationships and could communicate via social media in a public setting, like someone’s Facebook wall or via Twitter. That communication is allowed as long as student-athletes are not posting recruiting messages.

For context, here’s the general bylaw on recruiting activities and student-athletes:

Title:13.1.2.7 – Student-Athlete.
The following conditions apply to recruiting activities involving enrolled student-athletes:  (Revised:  5/29/08)
(a) Off-Campus Contacts.  Off-campus, in-person recruiting contacts that are unavoidable incidental contacts between enrolled student-athletes (or other enrolled students) and a prospective student-athlete are permissible if such contacts do not occur at the direction of a coaching staff member.  If unavoidable incidental contact occurs between a student-athlete and a prospective student-athlete (even at the prospective student-athlete’s high school), such contact is permissible, provided the institution had no prior knowledge of the occurrence of the contact.  (Revised:  5/29/08)
(b) Transportation and Expenses.  An institution may not provide an enrolled student-athlete with transportation or expenses to recruit a prospective student-athlete except for those expenses specified in Bylaw 13.6.7.5 when the student-athlete serves as a student host.  (Revised: 8/5/04, 5/29/08)
(c) Written Correspondence.  It is permissible for an enrolled student-athlete to engage in written correspondence, provided it is not done at the direction or expense of the member institution.  (Revised:  5/29/08)

Overall, the NCAA and its member schools view social networking less in terms of the technology and more in terms of the impact on recruiting.

NCAA rules state the only permissible forms of electronic communication for recruiting are e-mail and faxes. Due to the nature of the direct one-to-one private communication that can be used through social networking sites, this type of communication is viewed as a form of e-mail.

Coaches are not allowed to text recruits, so if a coach becomes aware that a recruit has elected to receive direct messages as text messages on a mobile device, the coach must cease communicating with the recruit through the social networking site.

All other electronically transmitted correspondence including, but not limited to, text messaging, Instant Messenger, chat rooms or message boards [e.g., a user’s wall] within a social networking Web site or through other services or applications remain impermissible.

NCAA rules do not allow comments about possible recruits on an institution’s social media page or a page belonging to someone affiliated with the institution. In addition, these pages cannot feature photos of prospects and messages cannot be sent to recruits using these social media technologies other than through their e-mail function.

Twitter has become a popular recruiting tool in college athletics. Tweeting is permissible as long as coaches are not using it to contact individual prospective student-athletes and are abiding by the standard recruiting rules such as not discussing specific recruits or contacting them when it is not allowed.

NCAA member schools must remain vigilant to educate their athletics personnel, fans and boosters about the ground rules for communicating with recruits. Even as technology continues to evolve, schools must continue to monitor the recruiting process.

15 comments

  1. Let me see if I have this right, you guys actually called the NCAA? What the hell for! Do you call and complain to the IRS as well! For all you know they weren’t even aware of that site, damn good thing it’s ok or the people would be coming to your office with pitchforks and torches!

  2. Actually, an inside source has confirmed Hugh emailed the NCAA and then put in a phone call to Chet’s wife.

    I don’t think any of us can begin to fathom how 4guards is fighting a heroic battle to stop the sabotaging forces plotting behind the scenes to destroy IU basketball.

  3. It is good to see that the NCAA does not require a college education, or even high marks in HS, for their employees who write official pronouncements for them: Example #1 “…are not able to publicly comment…” Here we have an improper word usage: “able” refers to the physical ability actually to perform a function while the meaning intended was “is not permitted” indicating that an action which the person could perform should not be performed because it is not within the proscribed rules. Example #2 from the same 6 words “…to publicly comment…” Here we have the classic “split infinitive”. You are not permitted to place a modifier in between the infinitive phrase “to comment”. The solution is to phrase it: “publicly to comment”. This is picky, but the NCAA was replying in a written email to a newspaper for an authoritative rule interpretation, so wording was important! Despite it being important, the NCAA simply could not write proper English! Perhaps, like the Kentucky basketball player whom the NCAA will not investigate further, the NCAA employee benefited from a teacher raising a C grade to an A based on undocumented “extra-credit” work.

  4. Two things. First, of all the “I totally dismiss the argument that was just made for grammar and/or spelling errors” rebuttals on the internet, I don’t know if that’s the saddest or the funniest, but it’s definitely the most nit-picky. You’re going to question the education of someone at the NCAA for the can/may distinction and split infinitives? Have you see the writing that’s coming out of colleges these days?

    Second, I love the idea that it’s possible that the NCAA did not know about the Facebook site. That would require that none of the 400 NCAA staff members read an article that appeared in the local paper of the city they live and work in. And that none of the other 346 Division I schools reported it. And that IU did not self-report or ask for an interpretation.

  5. This is such a non-issue with the hope to advance it to be an issue for the spectacular I gotcha.

  6. I’d be in favor of a ‘no tweeting on anything sports-related’ rule from Coach Crean, just to be on the safe side with regards to any kind of gray area. Why make trouble for yourselves? Avoid the situation altogether on the front end and you never have to worry about it.

  7. John, so your point is that since “bad writing” is commonplace (“Have you see the writing that’s coming out of colleges these days?”), no one should complain, even in situations when rule interpretations are being disseminated “officially” by the authorities who are charged with policing and enforcing these rules? Good luck with that stance in “court”. Have you ever heard of a defense of “vagueness” about a rule of conduct? How can you be held to a standard of conduct if the rules are not “clear and precise”? Rules must put you “on notice” before you can be fairly sanctioned for violating them. I believe that it was Rene Descartes who first asked and answered this philosophical question in 1641 (albeit not about rules of conduct but about rules of rational thought).

  8. John, please don’t bring common sense to this site. We have no room for it, nor do we care for it. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

  9. In reference to what BearPurdue said about vagueness, could this is be why we hear so many of those executives answer those tough Congressional Hearings questions go something like, ‘I don’t recall’?

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