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Educational Column - 1 Educational Column
Educational Column

February 10, 2014
1

NCAA Division I member institutions are reminded that an athletics department staff member's personal website or social media profile [or personal page on any site (e.g., Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn)] may include information related to the institution's athletics program, subject to the same restrictions applicable to an institution's athletics website. Accordingly, a personal site may contain information not created for a recruiting purpose (e.g., game scores, season updates, facility updates, information regarding the coaching staff or current or former student-athletes). However, it is not permissible to include information about or directed toward a specific prospective student-athlete or to post video or audio materials directed toward prospective student-athletes generally unless such content is produced by the institution's official admissions or student-services office and available to all students or is not created for a recruiting purpose (e.g., interviews with current student-athletes or game highlights targeted to a general audience).

Institutions should note that the legislation governing publicity, correspondence and electronic transmissions is also applicable to an athletics department staff member's personal website. For example, a member institution or athletics department staff member may not comment publicly about a prospective student-athlete, other than to confirm recruitment, before the prospective student-athlete has signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) or an institution's written offer of admission and/or financial aid, or prior to receipt of the student-athlete's financial deposit in response to the institution’s offer of admission. The institution is also precluded from commenting in any manner as to the likelihood that a prospective student-athlete will sign with that institution and may not publicize (or arrange for the publicity of) a prospective student-athlete's visit to campus, including any camp or clinic held on the institution's campus, before the prospective student-athlete has signed a NLI, the institution's written offer of admission and/or financial aid or prior to receipt of his or her financial deposit in response to the institution's offer of admission. Further, an athletics department staff member may not promote or endorse a prospective student-athlete's team or coach, or an athletics facility that is primarily used by prospective student-athletes.

Finally, institutions should note, in sports other than basketball and men’s ice hockey, all forms of electronically transmitted correspondence to a prospective student-athlete, other than electronic mail (traditional email, and other communication through electronic services and applications comparable to traditional email in which a message is sent directly to another individual) and facsimile, are prohibited until after the prospective student-athlete signs a NLI or the institution's written offer of admission and/or financial aid or after the institution has received a financial deposit in response to the institution's offer of admission. Examples of prohibited electronic correspondence include, but are not limited to text messages, instant messages, SnapChat and comments on a prospective student-athlete's wall or page.

In basketball and men's ice hockey, any type of electronically transmitted correspondence (e.g., e-mail, facsimile, instant message, text message, SnapChat, etc.) may be sent to a prospective-student athlete, provided the correspondence is sent directly to the prospective student-athlete (or his or her parents or legal guardians) and is private between the sender and recipient. Once a prospective student-athlete signs a NLI or an institution's written offer of admission and/or financial aid or after the institution receives a financial deposit from the prospective student-athlete in response to the institution's offer of admission, the institution may communicate publicly with that prospective student-athlete.

The following questions and answers are designed to assist the Division I membership with the application of the legislation governing use of social media.

Question No 1: Is it permissible to send correspondence to a prospective student-athlete using email equivalent functions that are available on social media platforms?

Answer: Yes. Email is not limited to traditional email services provided by an institution, website or Internet service provider. Permissible email communication extends to communication through electronic services and applications comparable to traditional email in which a message is sent directly to another individual. Accordingly, it is permissible for an athletics department staff member to send electronically transmitted correspondence to a prospective student-athlete using a service that permits a private message to be sent between only the sender and recipient in a manner comparable to traditional email (e.g., Twitter "direct message," Facebook messenger, Instagram Direct, etc.). Any pictures or audio/video clips included in such messaging cannot be created for a recruiting purpose or must fit within a specific category of institutionally produced audio/video materials expressly permitted under the recruiting materials legislation that may be provided via e-mail attachment or hyperlink. Electronically transmitted correspondence through other services or applications that may be directed to a specific individual but are accessible to other users of the service or application (e.g., Twitter "@replies" or "mentions," Facebook wall-to-wall feature) are not considered an email equivalent. Finally, institutions should note that whether a permissible form of electronic communication occurred is based on the mode of communication used, not on how a service stores or catalogs the communication after the communication ends.

Question No. 2: In sports other than basketball and men’s ice hockey, may institutional staff members use a service or software to convert an email into a text message or other prohibited form or electronically transmitted correspondence?

Answer: No. Further, to the extent an athletics department staff member is aware that a prospective student-athlete is receiving a permissible form of electronic communication in an impermissible format (e.g., receiving email as text messages), such electronic transmission is prohibited.

Question No. 3: May a coach or other institutional staff member and a prospective student-athlete connect via social media (e.g., "friend" each other on Facebook, "follow" each other on Twitter) prior to the first permissible date to provide recruiting materials?

Answer: Yes, provided the only communication to the prospective student-athlete is an electronic notification automatically generated by the social media platform (e.g., the platform notifies a prospective student-athlete that he or she has received a friend request) and the coach or other institutional staff member does not include any additional language in either the request or the reply. Once connected, all limitations governing recruiting correspondence, electronic communication and publicity remain in effect until the prospective student-athlete has signed a NLI or the institution's written offer of admission and/or financial aid or the institution has received his or her financial deposit in response to its offer of admission.

Question No. 4: May a coach or other athletics department staff members communicate publicly with or about a prospective student-athlete on a social media platform?

Answer: A coach or other athletics department staff member may not communicate publicly with a prospective student-athlete until the prospective student-athlete has signed a NLI or the institution's written offer of admission and/or financial aid or the institution has received his or her financial deposit in response to its offer of admission. Prior to that time, public communication with or about a prospective student-athlete is contrary to the publicity legislation. Further, a coach or other athletics department staff member may not publicly reference the name, nickname or other personally identifiable information (e.g., address) of a prospective student-athlete, other than to confirm recruitment of the prospective student-athlete, nor may a coach or athletics department staff member forward or republish identifiable information generated by a prospective student-athlete (e.g., "retweet").

Question No. 5: May a current student-athlete and a prospective student-athlete connect and communicate via a social media platform at any time and publicly communicate with or about a prospective student-athlete?

Answer: Yes, provided the communication does not occur at the direction of a coach or other athletics department staff member and the communication does not relate to the prospective student-athlete's recruitment (e.g., a student-athlete may not publicly comment on a prospective student-athlete's verbal commitment, a student-athlete may not post any information that would publicize a prospective student-athlete's visit to campus), including information that was initially generated by the prospective student-athlete (e.g., "retweet").

Question No. 6: May a coach or other athletics department staff member connect and communicate publicly with a prospective student-athlete's coach or team via a social media platform at any time?

Answer: Although it is permissible to connect and communicate with a prospective student-athlete's coach via private communication at any time, coaches and other athletics department staff members are not permitted to make any public comment that promotes or endorses any prospective student-athlete's coach or team, or an athletics facility that is primarily used by prospective student-athletes.

Question No. 7: May a coach send a generic good luck or congratulatory message which mentions a specific high school on social media (e.g., a tweet on Twitter or a Facebook wall post that states, "Good luck, City High School, during the 2013 soccer season!")?

Answer: No. Such messages would constitute an endorsement of the high school.

Question No. 8: If an athletics department staff member's son or daughter is a prospective student-athlete, is it permissible for the staff member to send a good luck or congratulatory message in which the son or daughter's high school or team is mentioned (e.g., "Congrats to my daughter, Suzie, and the Central High volleyball team on winning the conference tournament this weekend!")?

Answer: Yes; however, the staff member is not permitted to comment specifically on any other prospective student-athlete on the team unless the prospective student-athlete has signed a NLI or the institution's written offer of admission and/or financial aid or the institution has received his or her financial deposit in response to its offer of admission.

Question No. 9: If an athletics department staff member has a pre-existing relationship with a high school coach, is it permissible for the staff member to send a good luck or congratulatory message mentioning the coach's name (e.g., "Congrats, Coach Smith, on your 400th career victory! Proud of you, my friend.")?

Answer: No. This would constitute an impermissible endorsement of the mentioned coach.

Question No. 10: May an athletics department staff member post a tweet commenting on a particular facility used by prospective student-athletes (e.g. "Great ballgame at Township High School. One of the best high school baseball fields in the country!")?

Answer: No. While it is permissible for an institutional staff member to publicly post generic information on a social networking website including locations visited (e.g., visit to a high school or town, attending a contest), comments made about a specific prospective student-athlete, coach, high school or athletics facility that is primarily used by prospective student-athletes are not permissible.

Question No. 11: May an institutional staff member post an individual photograph of a prospective student-athlete taken during a camp or clinic on the institution's campus to the staff member's microblog, personal website, institutional website, social networking or other social media site?

Answer: Although it is permissible for a picture of a prospective student-athlete taken while visiting the institution's campus, including attendance at any camp or clinic held on the institution's campus, to be used in permissible publicity and promotional materials such as press releases, media guides or camp brochures, an individual or "staged" photograph of a prospective student-athlete cannot be posted to any of the above platforms prior to the prospective student-athlete signing a NLI, an institution's written offer of admission and/or financial aid or receipt of his or her financial deposit in response to the institution's offer of admission.

[References: NCAA Bylaws 11.3.2.8 (promotion or endorsement of a prospective student-athlete's team, coach or athletics facility), 13.4.1.4 (electronic transmissions), 13.4.1.4.1 (exception – basketball and men’s ice hockey), 13.4.1.4.2 (exception -- electronic transmissions after commitment), 13.10.2.1 (comments before commitment), 13.10.2.4 (prospective student-athlete's visit), 13.10.2.7 (photograph of prospective student-athlete) and 13.10.3 (publicity after commitment); official interpretation (3/14/07, Item No. 2); staff interpretation (09/09/13, Item No. b) and staff interpretation (12/05/13, Item No. a)]

Notice about Educational Columns: Educational columns and hot topics are intended to assist the membership with the correct application of legislation and/or interpretations by providing clarifications, reminders and examples. They are based on legislation and official and staff interpretations applicable at the time of publication. Therefore, educational columns and hot topics are binding to the extent that the legislation and interpretations on which they are based remain applicable. Educational columns are posted on a regular basis to address a variety of issues and hot topics are posted as necessary in order to address timely issues.  


References
 
Legislative References
Div. Number Title
I 11.3.2.8 Promotion or Endorsement of a Prospective Student-Athlete's Team, Coach or Athletics Facility.
I 13.10.3 Publicity After Commitment.
I 13.10.2.1 Comments Before Commitment.
I 13.10.2.7 Photograph of Prospective Student-Athlete.
I 13.10.2.4 Prospective Student-Athlete's Visit.
I 13.4.1.4 Electronic Correspondence -- General Rule.
Other
References Interpretations: 3
Interpretations: 0
References Educational Columns: 0
Educational Columns: 1
Proposals: 0
 

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