In digital age, athletes’ social media usage being monitored

Justin Boggs, Sports Writer
September 20, 2013
Filed under Sports

With the explosion of Twitter and Facebook over the last few years, coaches and administrators at NCAA institutions are being challenged to adapt to a new landscape despite the possibility of NCAA violations and giving opponents ‘bulletin board’ material.

Recently, Ohio State’s Department of Athletics spent $360,500 for the JumpForward software which helps monitor social media usage by OSU’s coaches and players. At Wright State, the university’s budget does not allow for such a service, which means it is up to WSU athletics staff to keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook usage by players and coaches.

The issue of monitoring student-athletes usage on social media has even become a political issue. The governors of California and Delaware signed laws last year barring college athletic departments from accessing non-public social media information from student-athletes.

The issue of tracking social media usage by athletes was brought to the forefront in 2012 as the University of North Carolina was handed NCAA sanctions for not properly monitoring student-athletes usage on social media.

WSU Director of Athletics credits his compliance staff for not having many problems with social media with student-athletes. Grant said there have been instances the department has had to talk to athletes about their social media usage, but those instances were corrected and used as a learning tool.

“It really starts at the compliance level,” Grant said. “At least once a year, we’ll have a social media speaker or someone to warn of the pitfalls and the dos and the don’ts of social media and so far, knock on wood, we have been pretty fortunate.”

Grant said that social media is one example where the coaches and administrators can educate student-athletes.

“It is an opportunity for folks to learn, ‘hey, maybe I don’t want to put that out there’ or maybe ‘I should only put something on there that belongs on a bulletin board or a marquee,’” Grant said.

By using social media, coaches have to be careful not to interact with recruits per NCAA bylaws. Even season ticket holders can commit NCAA violations on behalf of their institution by sending Tweets to recruits.

In July, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo sent a Tweet to George Campbell, a 2015 verbal commitment for Michigan football. Costolo’s Tweet read “welcome to the family” after Campbell announced his plans. A simple message like Costolo’s constitutes as a minor NCAA infraction since Costolo is considered a Michigan booster.

“It stinks because most of the rules in the NCAA rulebook were made because someone tried to push the limits and tried to get an advantage whether it would be to get a commit or whatnot,” newly promoted WSU baseball manager Greg Lovelady said. “Then it ruins it for the rest of us.”

But with risk comes reward. WSU has a number of official Twitter and Facebook accounts for various varsity sports. Also, a number of coaches have opened Twitter accounts including Lovelady.

“It gives insight on the team so recruits and parents can follow along,” Lovelady said.

Lovelady said he joined, in part, to follow players and making sure they are using Twitter correctly.

“It is a double-edged sword, there are a lot of positives to it and has the ability to have negatives to it,” Lovelady said.

Lovelady played at the University of Miami from 1999-2001, at a time when Facebook, Twitter and modern forms of social media did not exist.

“I am very thankful my team did not have this,” Lovelady said. “I am thankful that some of my teammates were not able to end up in this situation. It is just an opportunity for bad things to happen…I am very thankful that I didn’t have it when I was in college.”

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