NCAA Football

NCAA Wants to Battle Social Media; North Carolina Football Fallout

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By Michael Felder

Yesterday we took some time to break down the North Carolina NOA and simplify the literature for the folks to understand as well as hit the biggest issues surrounding the whole UNC situation. Pretty solid reaction, although I will say it was probably the most North Carolina traffic the website has seen, ever, I'm normally a Nacogdoches, Texas sort of a guy apparently.

Today on to bigger issues since we do like to talk about the national scope and what this means from an "all of college football" perspective. For me, personally the biggest issue in this NOA wasn't the agents, it wasn't the coach working for an agent, the tutor issue or even the former players conundrum. No, the biggest issue here was the fact that North Carolina received a failure to monitor partially due to their lack of due diligence when it came to overseeing their players' social media accounts.

That's huge folks. Absolutely humongous. That is as wide reaching a ruling and more importantly unprecedented a ruling as we've seen in quite some time. It is vague, there is not, technically, a rule as to how much "monitoring" is enough and ultimately the rule is just a puzzling one. How puzzling? So much so that several schools have requested more information regarding what they're responsible for following the North Carolina ruling.

This NCAA policy isn't new, originally we've seen it come into play during recruiting and as Rachel Bachman from the Oregonian points out just dealing with "what is" and "what isn't" permissible on that front is a task that most do not fully comprehend. Fans and recruits mixing, boosters and fans attempting to woo recruits via facebookand twitter and of course the nasty messages folks send via twitter and facebook to kids who choose not to go to their school.

Personally I'm in favor of the "idea" behind this legislation. I'm signing up for anything that stops random fans and boosters from potentially ruining the recruiting process for these kids. I hate to step on toes but I hate the whole fans facebooking and tweeting with recruits. We've seen it turn ugly (see Brent Callaway) and all in all, for lack of a better term, it is just creepy. Adults, talking to 15-18 year olds they don't know attempting to friend them to get them to come to their school, while I understand the enthusiasm it just doesn't sit right with me.

More after the jump folks...

That said the NCAA initiative to put the onus on the schools to control this is absolutely insane. They can't. They can try. They can send out emails to boosters, print letters to season ticket holders, get on the radio/tv and even the social media outlets themselves asking fans not to talk to recruits. Doesn't mean it is going to work. Nick Saban, Mack Brown and Bob Stoops have got a lot of sway in their respective fanbases but if they can't get fans to stop why expect anyone else to be able to?

It has to be a fan driven initiative to where it is not "cool" to have that odd access to recruits. Until it comes from the fans side where folks are ok with just hoping a kid picks them not intervening in their life the practice isn't going anywhere.

Now, on to the more interesting issue and the one that I find truly troubling and ultimately setting the NCAA and its member institutions up for failure; the monitoring of athletes social media accounts. This, at least in part, is what got UNC caught up with the NCAA in the Failure to Monitor violation. This is what schools are scratching their heads over this morning.


Sure, they know they've had to watch their kids because of the public relations nightmares that kids have created in recent years. Now though, the schools can be punished for something their 17-23 year old athletes say on twitter or facebook. Taking public relations hits, firing off press releases and making a kid issue an apology is one thing but this new ruling against UNC shows that the governing body of collegiate athletics can now penalize your program and your school for not "monitoring" your athletes social media accounts closely enough.

As Sarah Spain points out in a great article regarding the slippery slope the NCAA has decided to travel down with this ruling does that mean just keeping a watchful eye over players making sure what they say is appropriate? Or does that mean more?

What's "closely enough" in the NCAA's eyes? 

Does it mean faking accounts to gain access to private athlete accounts?

Does it mean requiring players to unlock their high privacy or private accounts so that the school and or NCAA can monitor them?

Does it mean each coach and athletic department is tasked with getting the twitter name and facebook profile of each athlete and having that on file?

Does it mean athletes are required to hand over their passwords and login information?

Basically it begs the question what are these schools supposed to do and what are they supposed to be looking for? If you're looking at school with a healthy helping of men's and women's sports we're talking hundreds of student athletes that all must be checked and monitored to make sure they're not in violation of this vague rule. And no, it can't just be the "revenue sports" that get monitored because this isn't PR that we're talking about now, this is about NCAA violations and that's a total athletic department issue not just a revenue issue.

Are schools going to be forced to hire a 24 hour staff to monitor the accounts and red flag possible issues?

What are these schools supposed to do about ghost accounts, fake accounts, locked accounts or just high privacy accounts?

Let's face it, with this violation we're heading towards one outcome; banning athletes from twitter and/or facebook. Teams have already done it because it was just a public relations nightmare when a 17-23 year old kid said something inappropriate. Now we're talking about losing scholarships, being put on probation and others of the NCAA punishments coming to a program because of social media.

With this ruling athletic departments, not just coaches, are going to start banning social media. That's not what we want, is it? That's not what fans, who love the access and follow their teams players religiously want. That's not what I want as a guy who thinks this whole social media thing is a part of the normal college experience.

More importantly though, it isn't what anyone who thinks college is about more than wins and losses should want. As we said here before, social media is a part of the real world and when you go to college, athlete or not, the goal is to prepare you for growing into an adult. College is where you make your mistakes, you grow up and you become the man or the woman that is ready to take on the world.

This ruling is about to take away a critical teaching point because it is becoming too troublesome to police, much easier to just shut it down. 

Get more great college football analysis at In The Bleachers.