(Mark Schmidt Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
Former NFL coach Herman Edwards always says the league’s players need a “Don’t Press Send” button to stop them from foolish social media posts.
College sports fans may need the same feature.
The scenario plays out a similar way across the nation: a high school athlete tweets that he has received a scholarship offer. The kid is so excited to be on the path to college ball that he can’t help spreading the news, and that’s perfectly acceptable.
Another group of people can’t help themselves either: the fans.
Alumni, students and fans love these tweets; some are borderline obsessed. The second a recruit’s tweet appears on their timeline, they’re hitting the “reply” button, encouraging him to commit and sign that letter of intent.
The posts seem like harmless displays of fan support, and most of the prep athletes appreciate the attention (Millennials, right?).
What most of these fans don’t know is that by pressing send, they are committing an NCAA violation.
“Fans cannot contact a recruit and attempt to entice them to attend a certain school, as this is a violation of NCAA rules,” NCAA spokeswoman Kayci Woodley said in a statement to NewsOK for a story in 2013. “If a school comes across an instance of this happening, it is expected that they would reach out to those athletics personnel, fans and boosters and reinforce the ground rules related to communicating with recruits. The communication outreach would likely be reported to the NCAA, which would show the school is doing their due diligence to abide by the NCAA rules.”
The University of Iowa’s compliance department was proactive in abiding by the rules, tweeting in August 2015, “Hawkeye Fans and Boosters, please do not Tweet at Hawkeye recruits! Leave the recruiting to Iowa coaches!”
The NCAA cannot possibly enforce this rule properly, as there are thousands of infractions every day; even people who “retweet” or “like” recruits’ posts are technically rule breakers.
But just because your social media actions aren’t likely to result in a scandal for Bonaventure, doesn’t mean you should eagerly reach out to these kids.
Is telling a prospect, “We want you! Be a Bonnie!” every other day really necessary in the first place? The scholarship offer he or she received from the coaching staff usually gets that message across. Is it fair game to track a prospect and take a picture of him visiting campus without his knowledge, like multiple fan accounts did this year? The odds of families being cool with that are slim to none.
Coach Mark Schmidt and his assistants have been successful recruiters in the Atlantic 10 for a decade now; two players in the NBA system are proof of that. A tweet from a fan account isn’t going to do a better job swaying a recruit one way or another than they will.
To the tweeters, this form of recruitment seems like a perfectly reasonable communication. To the outside world, it comes off as a maniacal and often creepy interaction.
The NCAA isn’t going to show up at a fan’s house and confiscate his computer or cell phone. But the coaches are the ones being paid to fill their open roster spots, and it’s time to let them do their jobs without interfering.