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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: The NCAA and Social Networking

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The NCAA and Social Networking

In an earlier post, "The NCAA Blind Sides Poor Athletes," I suggested that NCAA rules were too restrictive.  Looking for a little more information, I found an article,"NCAA rules place limits on fan enthusiasm," by that describes limits on students' recruiting that I find grotesquely restrictive and completely unnecessary.
What may seem like an innocuous post on a social media forum may be an NCAA recruiting violation, according to what Kansas Athletics is telling fans.

Even though average KU fans may not think of themselves as boosters in the traditional sense, Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director at KU, said they become boosters when they do things that could be considered an effort to attract high school athletes to KU.
The set of rules governing recruiting is sufficiently convoluted and complex to make a Pharisee blush.  Steve Yanda of the Washington Post writes in "Fans' Recruiting Pitches Are Catching On," that

Current students cannot serve as representatives of their schools' athletic interests and thus are not allowed to contact recruits, according to Stacey Osburn, the NCAA's associate director of public and media relations. In fact, NCAA rules state that any individual who is known or should have been known by a member of a school's athletic administration to be "assisting in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes" qualifies as a representative of that institution's athletic interests. Therefore, any fan with a social networking account could possibly cause a violation, not merely those currently enrolled at a school.

"If a school found out this was going on, it would have to self-report it," Osburn said. "The NCAA then would look at the situation within reason." She added that reports of major violations concerning this subject have yet to surface...

Osburn said that if a school were to report a violation regarding fan usage of social networks to contact recruits, the NCAA would try to answer two questions: Did the university in question have a system in place to monitor this type of activity, and was the university responsible in any way for encouraging the students to contact recruits?

Because there have been no reported instances of major NCAA violations regarding social network recruiting, Osburn said the NCAA has established no penalty guidelines for such cases. She said it was likely that secondary violations have occurred but she did not have access to such information.

Let me sum up this mess.  It is against NCAA rules for students and other fans to "recruit" athletes, and their actions are impossible to monitor.  Despite the difficulty of the task, athletic departments must demonstrate that they have a program in place to track and inform fans that their actions are violations of NCAA rules, and being reasonable, the NCAA will not hit the schools with sanctions.

Here's an idea.  Dump the unenforceable restrictions on students and fans that add a new layer of expense to college athletics.  It is clearly a violation of their free speech rights, and, and from a view of economics, it is unnecessary.  Sufficient competition exists between colleges and universities that all schools would be able to compete and if they could not, that probably tells high school athletes something important about the recruiting schools. 

1 comment:

  1. The NCAA has crossed the line with its restrictions. Fans should be able to tell a "recruit" that they should go to a certain school. It is just merely school spirit and pride if they are telling them to choose one college over another. There is no way to keep tabs on social networking either to see if fans are "recruiting" and why would universities report it if they were just going to get themselves into trouble. The NCAA should reconsider its rules and limitations.

    Kaydi Perry