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Compliance Corner April 2013

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Educational Column

Recruiting - Electronic Transmissions - Social Networking Websites and Microblogs (I)
Date Published: December 12, 2012
Item Ref: 2

Educational Column:
NCAA Division I member institutions should note that it is permissible for an institution’s website or an athletics department staff member’s personal website (or personal page on any site) to include information related to the institution’s athletics program, subject to the restrictions applicable to an institution’s athletics website. Accordingly, a coach may post general informational content not created for a recruiting purpose such as game scores, team updates, facility updates or generic updates regarding the coaching staff and/or team to the extent they do not mention a specific prospective student-athlete. These formats may include website posts, online personal journals such as blogs and microblogs, which are a form of blogging resulting in a stream of short blog posts that are generally limited by a total number of characters. Twitter and tumblr are examples of microblogs. Further, institutions, teams and coaching staff members may maintain sites on social networks such as Facebook and Google+.

Publicity
Institutions should note, that in accordance with NCAA Bylaw 13.10.2, before the signing of a prospective student-athlete to a National Letter of Intent (NLI) or an institution’s written offer of admission and/or financial aid, a member institution may comment publicly only to the extent of confirming its recruitment of the prospective student-athlete. The institution may not comment generally about the prospective student-athlete’s ability or the contribution that the prospective student-athlete might make to the institution’s team. Further, the institution is precluded from commenting in any manner as to the likelihood that the prospective student-athlete will sign with that institution.

Therefore, while it is permissible for an institutional staff member to publicly microblog (e.g., Twitter/tweets) or post on a social networking website, about generic information, including locations visited (e.g., visit to a high school or town, attending a contest), institutions are reminded they are not permitted to publicize the recruitment of a particular prospective student-athlete in a manner inconsistent with the legislation. For example, it is not permissible for an institution to post the name, nickname or other personally identifiable information (e.g., address) of a prospective student-athlete on a microblog or social networking website unless it is in response to an inquiry by the media in order to confirm recruitment of a prospective student-athlete. Further, communication with or about a prospective student-athlete in the public’s view (e.g., Twitter “@replies” or “mentions,” wall-to-wall Facebook communication) is contrary to the publicity legislation and is an impermissible form of electronic communication with a prospective student-athlete.

In addition, institutions may not publicize (or arrange for the publicity of) a prospective student-athlete’s visit to campus, even if the visit occurs after the signing of the prospective student-athlete to a NLI or an institution’s written offer of admission and/or financial aid. Further, institutions may photograph a prospective student-athlete during a campus visit but may not use the photograph until the prospective student-athlete has signed a NLI or the institution’s written offer of admission and/or financial aid and may not use the prospective student-athlete’s name or photograph in any promotional items that involve the purchase or receipt of commercial advertising (e.g., season-ticket advertisement in newspapers or on a billboard). Therefore, it is not permissible for an institutional staff member to post a photograph of a prospective student-athlete taken during an institutional camp, for example, to the staff member’s microblog, personal website or institutional website or a social networking website prior to the prospective student-athlete’s signing of a NLI or the institution’s written offer of admission and/or financial aid.

Further, while institutions should note that the identification of a prospective student-athlete as a “friend” on a staff member’s profile page on a social networking site confirms only the institution’s potential recruitment of that individual, institutions are reminded that any public comments on the site prior to the signing of the prospective student-athlete to a NLI or an institution’s written offer of admission and/or financial aid about the prospective student-athlete’s ability, the contribution that the prospective student-athlete might make to the institution’s team or the likelihood of the prospective student-athlete’s signing with that institution would run contrary to the publicity legislation. Additionally, the initiation of or acceptance of “friend” requests may not occur until such time that it is permissible to send electronically transmitted correspondence to a prospective-student athlete.

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