The all-powerful institution governing college sports expects universities to step up and help it enforce recruiting rules in the decidedly unruly online world.
The Associated Press reported last week that North Carolina State University freshman Taylor Moseley felt the ire of the NCAA after starting a Facebook group called â€œJohn Wall PLEASE come to NC STATE!!!!â€ Nearly 1,000 fans joined the group expressing its admiration of one of the top high school basketball prospects in the country.
The NCAA views the routine practice of launching new Facebook pages and groups during the heart of recruiting season as out of bounds and a violation of recruiting rules. The NCAA refers to fans creating and posting on these Facebook pages as boosters attempting to influence the choice of a recruit.
N.C. State compliance director Michelle Lee was well aware of the rules and sent Moseley a cease-and-desist letter warning the college freshman of â€œfurther actionâ€ if he failed to stop. Lee told the AP further action could include Moseley being denied tickets or formally being â€œdisassociatedâ€ from the athletic program to protect the school.
Moseley has declined interview requests, but he did change the name of the Facebook group to â€œBring a National Title Back to N.C. State.â€ He still has a picture of Wall featured on the page and wrote, â€œThe name of this group has been changed to comply with a request in regards to NCAA Regulations.â€
The NCAA has long insisted its rules are â€œtechnology neutralâ€ and it does not have to adapt its regulations to fit Internet trends. It expects member institutions to keep track of its fans and discourage inappropriate recruiting efforts.
Because Facebook is so saturated with fans and every school is well represented, it seems extremely unlikely one page would play a significant role in a recruitâ€™s college selection. I have interviewed more than 100 college football and basketball recruits during the past two years and not a single one told me Facebook played any role in their college selection.
Even if the same rules regulating fansâ€™ contact with recruits apply to the online world, the NCAA at least has to acknowledge there are millions of Facebook groups and schools have a heavy burden trying to police them online.
Shouldnâ€™t compliance officers be more worried about potential academic fraud than a funny Facebook post that a recruit may not ever see? At a time when a lot of schools are putting athletics department staff on furloughs and eliminating jobs to save scholarships, it seems wasteful to worry about Facebook groups.
There also is prickly little question about free speech.
The NCAA can regulate its members, but can it really ask colleges to police what fans say online?
NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson told the AP this isnâ€™t a free-speech issue.
â€œWe donâ€™t see it as a free-speech issue. What we do see it as is a recruiting issue,â€ he said. â€œWe want to be sure that we limit that level of intrusion that comes into their lives.â€
By Iliana Limon, McClatchy Tribune