October 27, 2009
As technology has grown, the NCAA has had to broaden the scope it uses to keep an eye on its institutions and administrators. It started a few years ago when the NCAA had to begin including text messaging in recruiting restrictions. This spring and summer the scope has reached the ever popular world of social networking, i.e. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. Look around, every coach, program, student athlete and/or big star recruit across the country can be found sharing their thoughts on these sites. Due to its popularity and out reach the NCAA was forced to put some restrictions on the schools and coaches, mainly for the purposes of recruiting. Besides what is a few more pages in the manual of things people associated with the NCAA can’t do, the length of which rivals War and Peace.
While I understand the reasoning and agree with restrictions, sometimes the NCAA over reaches its bounds. In the weeks following the end of the season, North Carolina State University, with the nudging of the NCAA sent a cease and desist letter to a freshman student who had started a group called “John Wall PLEASE come to NC State” on facebook. Wall was the #1 recruit in the country, a point guard who ultimately chose to attend the University of Kentucky. The following is an excerpt of the letter sent to the student:?NCAA bylaws go on to state that all in-person, on- and off-campus recruiting contacts, as well as correspondence and telephone calls, with a prospective student-athlete shall be made only by authorized institutional staff members,? the letter said. ?With this correspondence, North Carolina State is alerting you to the applicable NCAA legislation. Any current or future recruiting contact, as well as correspondence and/or telephone calls must cease immediately. Should this activity not cease and/or it continues in the future, we will have no choice but to take further action.?
At the time this letter was sent there were over 500 John Wall groups and pages on facebook, did the starters of those groups and pages get letters too? To me this is an awfully slippery slope the NCAA is headed down. Was only NC State in violation because it is an ACC school? Would the powers that be in Indianapolis have cared if this group was started by someone at Mississippi Valley State? Or a Division II school? What about influential alumni and boosters, is the NCAA going to start gathering intelligence on Twitter accounts of these folks as if they camp out in the hills of Kabul? Is it only a violation in sports that make the NCAA money, like basketball and football? What if I started a fan page asking the #1 field hockey recruit in the country to go to Kentucky Wesleyan or Mount Union, should I expect mail from the suits?
While the premise of the NCAA’s restrictions when it comes to social networking may be good and well intended, once they begin targeting someone other than athletic programs and institutions, it opens up a whole new can of worms. Sometimes the NCAA tries too hard to act like George Orwell’s Big Brother and end up looking like a giant paper tiger.