Social media presents challenges for college recruiting
At its core, social media is meant to connect us, and that connection has included college athletics.
You might remember Demarcus Croaker, a basketball recruit that was trying to decide between Murray State and Texas. Back in October, Croaker sent out a tweet asking for Twitter followers from Texas and Murray state, both fanbases obliged.
In March when he was visiting Texas, one Texas fan tweeted to him "Enjoy Austin, hope you choose Texas. Hook 'Em." Then a Murray fan wrote "I'll retweet you if you quit messing around and commit back to Murray State. Quit getting Texas' hopes up, you're a Racer.
Nothing wrong with a little persuasion, right? Actually yes, because those tweets are technically recruiting violations.
"It's hard to monitor all that stuff," admitted Matt Vincent, the assistant athletic director for compliance at Southern Illinois University. "You need someone full-time to sit there all day and look at Twitter accounts, and look at Facebook accounts."
"We're a mid-major program, and with that means limited staff," said Murray State athletic director Allen Ward. "It's an overwhelming task, and so we do the best that we can do, and then if we see something, we certainly follow up on it.
Larger universities like Kentucky and Tennessee have five or more people in their compliance departments, but SIU and Murray State only have a couple. However, there is one way smaller schools can protect themselves.
"Try to educate the public, the mass public," Vincent said. "That's the best thing to do, educate the coaches, educate the boosters so they know."
"We meet with them, we send out information with season ticket packets," stated Ward. "We try to simplify it, and make sure they know the basic rules."
Since they're working to get ahead of it, Vincent says if there was a violation, the university would most likely just get a warning. But if, for instance, a booster kept contacting a recruit without cooperation, they could be disassociated from the university, or even worse.
"It could affect somebody's eligibility," admitted Ward. "We hope it wouldn't, because we hope it wouldn't show as a pattern of abuse."
There is a possibility this rule could soon change. In recent months, the NCAA has tried to de-regulate some by-laws that are hard to police, and Ward says this is one that fits into the discussion.
Another thing to know is that even if you bought season tickets twenty years ago, you're still considered a donor, so the rule still applies.Tennessee's compliance department tends to be proactive, putting out periodic tweets reminding fans to leave recruiting to the coaches. We reached out to the NCAA about how effective this rule is, and if any school has ever been penalized for it, but our calls were not returned.