Recruiting and social media: Twitter leads to new set of compliance problems
Feb 04, 2013 (The Oklahoman - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Three-star cornerback prospect Adrian Baker -- known on Twitter as @PrimeTimeBake -- challenged Oklahoma and Clemson fans to convince him their football program was worthy of his commitment.
"#BoomerSooner or #TigerNation " Baker tweeted Friday afternoon.
Several fans on both sides responded to the Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade Madonna standout, who plans to announce his college choice -- which he's narrowed to Oklahoma and Clemson -- Wednesday morning.
Every fan who responded to Baker's call committed an NCAA recruiting violation.
NCAA bylaws only allow an institution's coaches and authorized staff to contact prospective student-athletes; those who are prohibited from contacting recruits include boosters, season-ticket holders, students, alumni and, yes, even average fans.
"Fans cannot contact a recruit and attempt to entice them to attend a certain school, as this is a violation of NCAA rules," said NCAA spokeswoman Kayci Woodley, in an email to The Oklahoman.
"If a school comes across an instance of this happening, it is expected they would reach out to those athletics personnel, fans and boosters and reinforce the ground rules related to communicating with recruits. This communication outreach would most likely be reported to the NCAA, which would show the school is doing their due diligence to abide by the NCAA rules."
The athletic compliance offices at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State each dedicate time and resources to monitoring such social media activity, but the very nature of the Internet makes it impossible to stop all of it.
Kevin Fite, Oklahoma State's associate athletic director of compliance, addressed one fan directly in September when he noticed illegal contact with a recruit.
"Cease from contacting our prospective student-athletes via Twitter or any other means per NCAA rules," Fite tweeted at the offender.
After a terse exchange, Fite instructed all official OSU athletics Twitter accounts to block that particular fan.
The NCAA's definition for a "Representative of Athletics Interests" -- laid out in NCAA bylaw 13.02.14 -- is fairly broad, which is why Fite would rather be safe than sorry.
"The threshold, I would say, is pretty thin," Fite said. "Basically, no one can. Let their coaches do their job."
More than a year ago, Oklahoma's compliance office hired Rob Robinson, a compliance coordinator whose duties largely involve monitoring social media.
Even with such a commitment to the cause, though, the OU athletics department still struggles with social media recruiting problems.
"That's the unfortunate part of the NCAA process," said Jason Leonard, OU's executive director for athletic compliance. "We're working within a system that you can't do 100 percent.
"There is no, 'Do X, Y and Z.' I wish there was. It'd be awesome. It'd make my job a lot easier. There are things that still occur here, that -- even if we had 100 people on the compliance staff -- we still can't catch it all."
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