The NCAA Makes Some Decisions On The Use Of Twitter

May 20, 2009 · By · Filed Under Football, News 

Twitter has emerged to be a huge social networking tool that can be used to help make lasting connections in the community. We use the Twitter account USAThunderjags to help promote the website, pass on up-to-date information and chat with South Alabama fans who are following us. Personally, I have made lots of contacts in the Mobile area for many things. It was only a matter of time before someone picked it up for recruiting. While its not as prevalent in high school kids as Facebook, it is the new way to keep in touch.

A few high profile coaches have gotten on the twitter train. Pete Carroll, Tom Crean, John Calipari and Gary Williams namely. But since that has came out, there has been some debate about just what coaches are and are not allowed to do on the platform.

Tom Crean tweeted this a few weeks ago: “I appreciate how many people are following me on this. Please remember that I cannot read or respond to replies. NCAA rules.” Then Kathleen Hessert, who is the President of Sports Media Challenge and also the person responsible for teaching Shaquille O’neil how to use Twitter, responded with: “Really? Compliance pros differ significantly on this. It needs clarity!”

The NCAA said that Crean is correct, any type of twittering back and forth using @replies that can be viewed in the public domain is not allowed. However, direct messaging on Twitter, which can be only viewed by the two people involved in the communication is permissible because it is seen as being equivalent to email. The same can go for facebook too. A coach can use the messaging function (similar to email) but can’t write on anyones wall. This is according to the current electronic transmission guidelines that are in place by the NCAA.

Cameron Schuh who is an Associate Director of Public and Media Relations for the NCAA said that they view the direct message option in Twitter the same way they view emails. You cannot post those on your main page. Schuh goes on and says that they view Twitter as a blog. “As long as coaches are on there talking about what they’re doing with their day and how their practice went or things like that … not getting into specific terms, that’s fine. They can’t talk about a person they’re recruiting, or they can’t use it to talk about their whereabouts on a recruiting trip.”

All of this applies to Coaches and recruits. But you will rarely, if ever, see a coach talking back and forth with fans on Twitter because compliance officers have strongly recommended that coaches should not do that. Why? Because you just never know who is behind the keyboard. Tennessee and Lane Kiffin found this out that hard way this week. There is no way to monitor who is and who is not a recruit by the name on someone’s account.

Plus, the logistics of having to respond to hundreds of replies would be a nightmare for a coach, they could literally spend entire days replying to fans posts without getting anything else done and still not be able to reply to each message.

Additionally, Twitter only allows Direct Messages between mutually following friends. Thus unless a coach is following a recruit and vice versa, direct messaging would not be able to occur through their official accounts.

Later the NCAA changed what they said and stated this: “In Division I, there are no specific NCAA restrictions to what kind of interaction a coach can have with a fan (on Twitter),” said Cameron Schuh, Associate Director of Public and Media Relations for the NCAA. “With that being said, that kind of interaction would fall under institutional discretion and would hopefully be closely monitored by the school and the coach.” Which seems to be in line with what the compliance officer said.

Are any coaches actually replying to anyone? Yes. Pete Carroll exchanged tweets with the official Lakers twitter account, but that hardly counts I would say.

So what can you take away from this? It shows that these bylaws are still being sorted out as they apply to new mediums, such as Twitter, as they pop up. Most of the time the NCAA is unsure of just how to enact them and how they apply. It seems that everything is sorted out for now. But one thing I am sure of is that the compliance officers are trying to err on the side of caution to help keep their programs out of any problems with the NCAA.

The Lane Kiffin/Tennessee Twitter story. Lane Kiffin didn’t even write the twitter post that has thrust Tennessee back into the headlines this week. Bascially what came out about that is that Tennessee is going to self-report another secondary NCAA violation after a high school recruit was mentioned by name on Tuesday on Lane Kiffin’s Twitter page. It was not Kiffin himself that wrote the post, but rather it was an employee in the football office who was updating Kiffin’s Twitter page for him.

It was up for about an hour before it was removed by Tennessee officials, however and hour in Internet time can be equated to an eternity. The NCAA rules prohibits coaches and athletic department employees from commenting about or publicizing unsigned prospects in any way.

Apparently the post originated from one of Kiffin’s personal assistants, which just so happened to be their first day. He posted the message on the Twitter page without asking about compliance.

This is the second such error by Kiffin that Tennessee has had to self-report involving an unsigned prospect. Back in February, he mentioned a player by name on a radio talk show in Knoxville and referred to him as a great player. Brown was still allowed to sign with Tennessee after they self-reported the violation.

Alabama seems to be using Twitter wisely. They use their Twitter account RollWithTheTide to tweet out what their assistant coaches are doing. For instance, earlier today this tweet was posted “Williams: practices and scrimmages all day today”. Then on May 17th this was posted, “Mac: travel day so i can get an early start first thing in the morning”. Back on May 12th, “Crimson Caravan Tonight in Panama City, FL– anxious to see all the fans”. Nothing wrong with those, nothing directed at people and no recruits names being used, yet you get a glimpse behind the scenes of the Alabama staff.

If you have an account on Twitter, then please follow USAThunderjags to receive the latest news and postings from Thunderjags.com  You can also follow me on Twitter as well.

Go Jags!

Some links to help you understand what twitter is.

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