Twitter poses fine line for players

March, 19, 2012
3/19/12
10:30
AM ET
We have already seen Twitter and social media make a significant impact in college football.

Athletes have the ability to speak their minds in 140 characters, free from the watchful eyes of their coaches and sports information directors. Some have forced their coaches to bar players from using Twitter because of their irresponsible actions. Others have lambasted outgoing coaches, or announced transfer decisions.

But in several recent cases, players have congratulated prep football athletes on recruiting decisions. That is a big no-no and constitutes a secondary NCAA violation. As Mitch Sherman of ESPN Recruiting Nation points out, the NCAA generally has a difficult time catching up with the changing times, and rules regarding Twitter are no different:
In general, according to one senior Division I administrator who formerly directed compliance, implementation of NCAA bylaws require three to four years to catch up to society.

Nothing that impacts recruiting has changed as fast and dramatically as social media. And while several proposals under consideration this year address electronic correspondence between institutions and prospects, NCAA legislation continues to lag in trying to apply old rules to new venues like Twitter.

As long as the NCAA treats a mention on Twitter or post on a Facebook wall no differently than a quote in the newspaper, headaches will remain. Somewhere in this process -- and there's no easy remedy -- social media needs its own rules. Because it's a different animal.

Sherman goes on to clarify what players can and cannot say to prospective student-athletes. But can we really expect these athletes to remember all these rules, when coaches have a hard enough time doing the same?

None of the eight current Big East schools prohibit their athletes from using Twitter. Some teams have players more active than others. Pitt receiver Devin Street, for one, made headlines last year when he took to his Twitter feed and blasted outgoing coach Todd Graham.

New Pitt coach Paul Chryst was asked last week whether he had a specific policy on social media.

"We haven't gotten to one yet," he said. "We've got some people on top of that. It's real, right? It's happening. You see it all over, misuse of it. You can also show responsible use of it. But I think it's an issue we have to be conscious of. We don't have a formal policy yet but I can see it coming."

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