- Most prospective student-athletes use social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate with both their family and friends and the general public. We are often asked, when it comes to recruiting, what kind of interaction is permitted with a prospective student-athlete on these sites? The rules apply differently based on which of three categories you fall into: coaches, media or fans/boosters.
- Coaches are permitted to use social media sites on a limited basis to communicate with recruits. Since coaches are permitted to send recruiting correspondence to recruits during their junior and senior years of high school, there are certain functions on social media sites that are similar to email correspondence, such as the direct message feature on Twitter and the Inbox feature on Facebook. The key is that these are person-to-person communications. Coaches may not post communications with a prospect in a public forum, because the coaches may not publicize who they are recruiting. So posting on a wall or @replying to a Twitter message from a prospect is not permitted since that can be viewed by anyone viewing the prospect’s page.
- Media likewise often contact recruits through social media sites. Provided they are contacting an individual for media purposes, NCAA rules do not regulate the manner in which they contact the prospect – by direct message or public tweet.
- Boosters are subject to some limitations on their contact with prospective student-athletes. One component of NCAA rules is that only the authorized coaches may recruit on behalf of the institution. This promotes competitive equity by ensuring that every program has the same number of people available to recruit for their program. Boosters are not permitted to recruit prospective student-athletes on behalf of the institution. So it would be a violation of NCAA rules for a booster to contact a prospective student-athlete by Twitter or Facebook to encourage them to attend UL. Likewise, it would be impermissible for a booster to set up a fan page in order to encourage a specific prospect to attend UL, such as a page entitled “Cajuns Fans Love Jake Prospect.” Because the institution is held responsible for the conduct of its boosters, doing so would require the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to self-report a violation of NCAA rules.
- It is not, however, impermissible for booster to follow a prospective student-athlete on Facebook or Twitter, as long as they are not reaching out to that recruit to in any way encourage them to attend UL. Boosters may not contact a prospect even if a prospective student-athlete invites people to contact him or her to advise them about what school to choose.
- Also, keep in mind that someone can be both a member of the media and a booster, depending on the context. As a member of the media, you would expect that someone would be seeking information, not pushing a particular agenda. So if a media member/booster contacted a prospect to say “I hear you are leaning towards UL, would you care to comment” that would be an appropriate contact by a member of the media. If that same individual sent a message saying, “I hear you are leaning towards UL, I think you would look great in Red and Black. Is it true?” that would be impermissible contact by a booster because they are encouraging the prospect to attend UL. It all depends on the context.
Thanks to University of Michigan Compliance for these scenarios.