On Facebook, Twitter and tweeting

Following up on good friend Dustin Dopirak’s quick hit earlier today on the Scoop, I thought it prudent to bring a little bit of further attention to this notion of social media and recruiting.

By now, most of you have heard about the Cody Zeller Facebook group, which created something of a firestorm when freshman Victor Oladipo and 2011 commitment Austin Etherington became involved. (For its part, Indiana denies that Oladipo had anything to do with the creation of the group, which would appear to have been a violation of NCAA recruiting regulations. Austin Etherington also denies he had anything to do with it, and that he was simply made an administrator once he joined and asked to be removed when he realized that had happened.)

This comes on the heels of something Dustin and I had been looking into separately, which came to a head today via an answer from the NCAA. Oladipo — who is among IU basketball’s most regular users of Twitter — was having something of a conversation via Twitter with Yogi Ferrell on Sunday, which prompted Dustin and I to wonder about the legality of such action. I was further intrigued today by a tweet from Kyrie Irving (we all remember him, surely) essentially congratulating Austin Rivers on his commitment to Duke, where Irving is now a freshman.

And so, ringing the NCAA, I got almost word-for-word the same answer Dustin did:

There are specific ways that student-athletes can assist in the recruiting process. They can communicate via email and phone with prospects, as long as it is not at the direction of their coaches or athletics staff.  They can assist with official visits as well by serving as a student host.

Student-athletes are not able to publicly comment on a prospect’s athletics ability or likelihood of signing with a school, just as coaches are not permitted to make these types of comments.

Regarding social media, we recognize student-athletes and prospects can and do develop relationships and could communicate via social media in a public setting, like someone’s Facebook wall or via Twitter. That communication is allowed as long as student-athletes are not posting recruiting messages.

In other words, Oladipo’s Twitter chatter with Ferrell, which was honestly conversational in nature and never appeared to take on a tone of commenting “on a prospect’s athletics ability or likelihood of signing with a school,” seems fine. Irving’s doesn’t seem so cut-and-dry, given that he actually does specifically reference Rivers’ commitment, but we talk mostly about Indiana here, so we won’t waste much space on that.

I bring this to you not so much as an indictment on any one player. From what we know, it seems fair to say everyone associated in some way with Indiana anyway was acting in bounds.

What’s interesting here, I think, is the case study in social media that this provides. As the NCAA spokesperson I talked to said, current players often have private relationships with recruits, e-mailing them, etc. But social media is such a different beast, it’s awfully hard to define how the two parties can have a relationship within clearly defined boundaries.

Facebook, I would argue, is semi-private, in that only people you approve as friends do things like write on your wall or see your photos, and you can control what your friends see. But it certainly doesn’t offer the privacy of an e-mail or a phone call.

And Twitter is even less private. Unless one protects their account, anyone can follow anyone, creating what, in essence, seems like a public forum. But it’s so informal that sometimes it doesn’t always feel like one, and that’s a distinction that, while not empirical or concrete, I think bears thinking through when considering it as a mode of mass communication similar to a TV interview. Bill Simmons has more than a million followers on Twitter — when will he ever have the opportunity to literally speak to that many people, all at once?

So what say you, as we continue to blaze this new path into the communications future? I know this is a lot to be thrown your way on a Thursday night, but as a graduate student in sports journalism who actually spends a decent amount of time thinking critically about questions just like this, I am legitimately interested in what you have to say, particularly since so many of you use Twitter and Facebook, and some of you interact with us through those mediums on a fairly regular basis.

Sound off, if you so desire.

  • Bahickma

    I think friends should have the ability to recruit friends to go to college with them. It sucks that Facebook and Twitter increases the celebrity of these guys to the point that they can’t interact with these websites the way most college kids do.

    The only thing that keeps these kids from just going about their business on Twitter and Facebook is the evil intent of coaches to manipulate their players and their access to college-centric online environments like Facebook, thus streamlining their access to potential recruits. I’m not sure if it all should be pointed at coaches, but I think most of the fear of manipulation lives there (think about how cell phone violations evolved over time).

  • Yogi Kelin Zeller

    Good article….I think this it is impossible to monitor the social networking aspect of the player recruit relationships, even monitor fans. You don’t know who is behind the accounts being set up and anything can happen as it has……Ofcourse there will be some coach (Cal, The kentucky coach, the former coach of Memphis and UMASS) to screw up and find a way to sleaze it up and ruin it for players in and out of college……give him two years to figure it out…

  • LTTelamon

    You run a huge risk here if you try, as the NCAA, to regulate this stuff. For one thing, it would be very, very difficult to prove the school was responsible for the contact in order to establish any sort of violation. More importantly, though, you take away the ability of these athletes to be kids. Look, these are high school students. What are you going to do – tell them they can’t use Facebook or Twitter? That in effect punishes them for being successful athletes. That’s the opposite of what we should be doing. I would assert they have the right to have friends, to tell their friends they’d like them to come play with them. Yes, this exposes the potential of lots of shadiness if coaches get involved. Quite frankly, though, these student athletes deserve the opportunity to be normal kids, and I don’t think any possible violation is important enough to take that away from them.

  • Hoosier78

    Will this effect our recruitment of Cody? Also does this small incident cast any negative light towards the program?

  • Hoosier78

    Will this effect our recruitment of Cody? Also does this small incident cast any negative light towards the program?

  • Hoosier78

    Will this effect our recruitment of Cody? Also does this small incident cast any negative light towards the program?

  • Anonymous

    This is truly a slippery slope. At what point does conversation become recruitment? Think about a situation like our 2014 commits. Both of these kids are on the same team; these guys talk all the time. Who is to say that one didn’t talk to the other about how great it would be to play on the same team in college? What would be the difference if these two were talking on twitter or facebook? It is truly ridiculous to attempt to control what kids say to one another. It is one thing to impose sanctions on what a coach, a seemingly grown adult with some idea of the repercussions of their actions (unless your last name starts with a C and ends with alipari), can do as far as social media, phone calls, or other contact with prospects. It is another thing to tell kids that they can or cannot tell friends or peers that they would love to play on the same team together.

    I don’t know the answer, so I will ask, can Coach Crean tweet that he would love to have another coach be a part of his team? If so, why would a player not be able to say that he wants another player to come be a part of his team? In the end, the player really does not make the decisions. These guys are peers; they are merely living a dream. I would hope the NCAA looks at these recruits with an understanding that they are what they are — kids. At least they aren’t trying to cheat their way into college so they can skip off into the NBA… cough cough

  • Anonymous

    This is truly a slippery slope. At what point does conversation become recruitment? Think about a situation like our 2014 commits. Both of these kids are on the same team; these guys talk all the time. Who is to say that one didn’t talk to the other about how great it would be to play on the same team in college? What would be the difference if these two were talking on twitter or facebook? It is truly ridiculous to attempt to control what kids say to one another. It is one thing to impose sanctions on what a coach, a seemingly grown adult with some idea of the repercussions of their actions (unless your last name starts with a C and ends with alipari), can do as far as social media, phone calls, or other contact with prospects. It is another thing to tell kids that they can or cannot tell friends or peers that they would love to play on the same team together.

    I don’t know the answer, so I will ask, can Coach Crean tweet that he would love to have another coach be a part of his team? If so, why would a player not be able to say that he wants another player to come be a part of his team? In the end, the player really does not make the decisions. These guys are peers; they are merely living a dream. I would hope the NCAA looks at these recruits with an understanding that they are what they are — kids. At least they aren’t trying to cheat their way into college so they can skip off into the NBA… cough cough

  • Anonymous

    What “normal” high school kid has 1,000,000 followers between facebook and twitter?

  • LTTelamon

    None, but this kid still has friends that he deserves to be able to keep in touch with, just like any other high school kid his age.

  • Anonymous

    LTT, I respect your thoughts here and your posts are always thoughtful and interesting. I’m not disagreeing that these kids deserve to be able to keep in touch with their friends using whatever social media (including knocking on the door and playing ball in the backyard) are available. All i’m saying is these kids are NOT normal – their talents are far superior to “normal” kids. I’m sure they’ve started getting used to being “not normal” in some ways. Maybe WE’RE the problem…fans who take it too far and “stalk” recruits in the social media. I like these forums and blogs where we (fans) can relate and identify with people who also share a passion for ___ fill-in-the-blank, and have become somewhat addicted to ITH (Hello, my name is….) but some people just need to stay in-bounds and keep it clean.

  • stonaroni

    The only way to control this stuff is to ban it altogether. Or, the NCAA mandates that all cell phone packages be purchased through the NCAA and they have it monotored 24/7. But, I do not think that is fair and it takes away the freedom to communicate with friends or other recruits that current recruits or players are forging a relationship with.

    Twitter and Facebook are just different avenues of e-mail and texting in the evolving modern day, and to be honest, I feel the NCAA is so far behind the curve on their rules and sanctions.

    Illegal recruiting is a real problem. There is money changing hands, it has been proven and will continue to happen. These agents are crawling around college campuses looking for these talented student athletes to pick off like a sniper in the brush. This is a place the NCAA should focus.

    At the same time, Bruce Pearl is under fire for having a guy to his house for a BBQ and to build a relationship. Pretty sad the guy or any other coach cannot entertain a player, show him some interest and let him know how badly the coach wants him on his team. I really don’t care if Bruce Pearl dropped $500 on a catered dinner for his family. If the kid is any good, the University of Tenn will make far more than $500 off of this kid. And, they will make more money off of one home game sellout than they dish out in full ride scholarships to the team for the whole year. It isn’t like he faked an exam to get a player eligible Calipari style.

    Here is the biggest crime of all….. the NCAA Tournament TV Contract
    “In a move expected to shore up the long-term financial health of college sports, the NCAA announced on Thursday that it had signed a 14-year, $10.8-billion contract with CBS and Turner Broadcasting to televise its men’s basketball tournament. The deal will funnel at least $740-million annually to NCAA member colleges and will very likely include an expansion of the tournament field to 68 teams.”

    $740 million a year to the NCAA. WOW! And a kid like Mo Creek who is 9 hours from home, who will probably lead the team in scoring, whose jersey will probably be the #1 IU jersey seller this year for NCAA merchandising cannot accept $1 from an alumni. Everybody is making money accept the players!

    Yes they are getting a free education of about $20,000/year. Multiply that by 13 full rides = $260,000 a year the university gives for these educations. But one sellout at Assembly Hall of $17,200 fans X $20/ticket = $344,000. This does not include concessions! So after 1 game the university is profitable by at least $84,000. The NCAA is profitable before they ever play a game through tv contracts and merchandise. Oh, and by the way, every time IU plays a game on CBS, they get $250,000. They get money for games on Big 10 Network and ESPN too. That is nearly every game.

    To me, this is what the NCAA needs to focus on. Sorry I am off topic, but these kids are taken advantage of.

    There would be nothing wrong with giving a student athlete $50 a week during the season. In the offseason, they are on their own.

    Also, these basketball teams travel all over. One week they are at home so they can attend class. the next week they are gone all week and studying on the road and missing class. Isn’t this against what the NCAA stands for? It should be, but the NCAA and the universities stand to lose too much money. But yet they are not willing to share with the kids. The basketball team is a monitary investment to the NCAA. To the coaches, these kids are valuable and a ton of time, effort, heart, and teaching is invested. Which is why I think the NCAA should back off of Pearl, despite is dishonesty up front, because he at least cares about his team.

  • millzy32

    I work for a global company that just so happens to be headquartered about 30 minutes from the Division that I work at. Although my company is in almost every state and around 50 countries our close proximity to Corporate makes the division I’m at an easy target for our internal auditors to come check out when they get bored.

    The reason I mention that is because the NCAA headquarters is in Indianapolis which makes IU a quick and easy hour drive south to go check out and enforce their rules. IU has to be as clean as they come otherwise you have already seen what happens. Knight gets fired and so does Sampson. IU is the highest profile BBall program with the closest proximity to the Headquarters so I fear the worst when the NCAA wants to start making examples of people. We have to have our coaches and players on their best behavior at all times.

  • Outoftheloop

    It is good to see that the NCAA does not require a college education, or even high marks in HS, for their employees who write official pronouncements for them: Example #1 “…are not able to publicly comment…” Here we have an improper word usage: “able” refers to the physical ability actually to perform a function while the meaning intended was “is not permitted” indicating that an action which the person could perform should not be performed because it is not within the proscribed rules. Example #2 from the same 6 words “…to publicly comment…” Here we have the classic “split infinitive”. You are not permitted to place a modifier in between the infinitive phrase “to comment”. The solution is to phrase it: “publicly to comment”. This is picky, but the NCAA was replying in a written email to a newspaper for an authoritative rule interpretation, so wording was important! Despite it being important, the NCAA simply could not write proper English! Perhaps, like the Kentucky basketball player whom the NCAA will not investigate further, the NCAA employee benefited from a teacher raising a C grade to an A based on undocumented “extra-credit” work.

  • Outoftheloop

    No and No.

  • LTTelamon

    Don’t take my reply as hostile – I agree with your point. What I’d suggest is two related things: one, the phenomenon that is college recruiting has become a lot bigger with the advent of the Internet, and the price of that is increased exposure. Increased exposure is a double edged sword. Now anyone can place footage of themselves on YouTube and show off their skills. Interested schools can now watch extensive tape of a prospect without ever leaving their office. However, the downside is the constant craving by fans and coaches for more material, more film, more information. This is the Information Era. Most of us simply cannot get enough of this stuff. We would eagerly dissect reports of every meal Cody Zeller ate if they were Tweeted to us. Related to that point, I think, is the increased amount of coverage these kids are subjected to. 20 years ago there were probably a handful of reporters who followed the recruiting trail, plus the respective beat writer for each team. Now there are bloggers upon bloggers, more interest than ever in who’s going to what school, and I doubt these folks get much time to themselves from all the attention. I think it’s immediately evident that a problem exists here. However, it’s hard to fault anyone but perhaps ourselves, and regulating fans is an impossibility, for the most part.

    I think what I’m trying to get across is that I could easily see the NCAA trying desperately to come down on player access through social media, and I would consider it a very unfortunate decision, because it punishes the player more than it helps him/her. We hear the term “student-athlete” thrown around a lot. I understand the reasons, but that term is not a full picture of an individual. All of these purported “student-athletes” are people, though, too. They have social lives. They have questions. They have responsibilities. All of these things fall outside the purview of the NCAA, but these things must and should be respected. Otherwise, our players really are nothing more than athletes thrown onto the court for our entertainment.

  • MillaRed

    We live in a world where something designed to do good can immediately be turned upside down when in the wrong hands. More times than not, it’s in the hands of a journalist when it gets crucified.

    This group was trying to show some love for CZ, a few of our kids got reeled in without understanding this crazy world of politics and the rest is history.

    I applaud all of these kids for giving CZ an idea of our desire to see him wear candy stripes in Bloomington. If a writer wants to twist it up and call it “weird” or “over the top” then so be it. They are just a bunch of kids. Get a grip and cover a story that actually has some meaning.

    I understand why you brought this upITH Alex but it really is just sad NCAA basketball is sinking so low.

  • GFDave

    One aspect of this that I find interesting is the audit trail. Unless reported by one of the participants, it is impossible to know the content of a phone call. Conversely, we all can know the content of Tweets. If the same recruiting message between the same parties is conveyed in both mediums two violations have occurred, yet only one is going to be documented. So uneven rule enforcement can result. How shocking to consider, given that it is the NCAA.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve taken a pretty long hiatus from commenting, although if you could “fingerprint” my web traffic, you’d see my prints all over this site. I think I said I was going to take the offseason OFF and I’ve tried my best, but I guess I’ll chime in on this.

    I can barely fathom how much attention these kids are receiving. While it’s easy to assume that they understand there are certain boundaries, they’re just kids, no matter how “special, different, unique,” etc. they know they are. Teenage kids are going to talk to other teenage kids that share similar interests.

    Along the same lines, fans probably don’t generally think that they could commit a recruiting violation for their school just by voicing an opinion for a certain recruit to go to “their” school. However, I do think that the average fan is intelligent enough to know when certain things are crossing the line, like establishing a page and making a player an administrator. In terms of social media, however, it’s just a tough thing to try and control.

    I’m a high school coach and there are some IHSAA rules I don’t even fully understand. Think about what the NCAA throws at coaches and universities and how many people it takes for them to even sift through it all. To expect that kids and fans are going to fully comprehend what they can and can’t do is just a silly expectation.

    Let the kids be kids.

  • MillaRed

    Furthermore, I don’t see how the NCAA or any organization for that matter has the right to dictate who these kids can connect with and in what fashion. Don’t they have parents that are supposed to regulate their behavior?

    Many of them have competed for years on the AAU circuit and are just trying to stay in touch through a long distance relationship. Meanwhile, an infractions committee or journalist that knows diddly about squat is acting like we have a conspiracy on our hands.

    It’s just dumb.

  • Joe

    I am listening to Dakich and he keeps saying that IU fans are “going to be very happy with a capital APPY” what is he talking about

  • LTTelamon

    We’re on the same wavelength. Nice post.

  • stonaroni

    Yogi, CZ, and Hanner.

  • Anonymous

    So he is pretty much saying those guys are coming to IU? I would love to know who his sources are….and I hope he’s right.

  • CutterInChicago

    http://www.idsnews.com/blogs/hoosierhype/

    is reporting that 2011 IU commit Austin Etherington and 2012 recruit Jeremy Hollowell confirmed that they will be in Bloomington tomorrow for an open-gym session and the Hoosiers’ football game against Michigan.

    “Etherington said Cody Zeller, Kevin ‘Yogi’ Ferrell, Hanner Perea and Gary Harris will also be in town on Saturday.”

  • Yogi Kelin Zeller

    Long hiatus…how about a drop off the face of the earth…..You are right smitty, to control social media these days within the classroom is tough enough. No matter what we block the kids know their way around it, cell phones etc…. The NCAA should monitor it but there is nothing they can do…Fans should understand our influence on recruits, are stronger when we are in the stands yelling and an occasional chant, compared to twitter and facebook following…

  • Anonymous

    I think this weekend with all the recruits visiting that CTC can just post the scholarship numbers available over the next few seasons. ‘There are not enough spots for all of you so it’s first come first serve’. You know kind of like a sign up sheet. Okay so this is why I am not a recruiter.

  • stonaroni

    Dakich has said before that CZ is coming to IU. He doesn’t give it much air time, but he has said it on air.

    As fans it is hard for us to not let our hearts and emotions in the way, but from a practical side, there are many signs that point to IU landing their prized recruits.

    +CZ is visiting us last; AE will be there on his official visit too; they are good friends and I am sure it is by design. We all know that AE has been in the ear of Cody since May to join him at IU. Since then, IU has landed Patterson, Jurkin, Blackmon, and Lyles, all top 100 prospects. And, Yogi wants to come along with Hanner; these guys are also friends with CZ and AE.
    +CZ is from So. Indiana and how nice would it be for his parents to travel one hour to catch 18 to 20 games a year as opposed to 10 hrs to Chapel Hill and all over ACC country.
    +CZ sees that his brother is out of state and not the big fish he would be at IU.
    +There are tons of recruits on campus this weekend. This weekend will be the “get on board” weekend for these recruits. The competition that is being set there is unbelievable. If a player no shows, it doesn’t look good. If a player shows, he’d better bring his A game.
    +Yogi has been on campus 4 times now???? Enough said.
    +Hanner moved to Indiana to play hs basketball.
    +Hanner is tight with Jurkin, AE, CZ and Yogi
    +The greatest part about all of it, every recruit from Indiana interested wants to put IU back on the map. It is in their blood. They want to be the man on campus and in the locker room.

    We just need patience. We are about 3 months away from the 2011 and 2012 classes to be set. Too much competition for these guys to sit back and wait. The time is now.

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