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Just a few years ago, spotting a college football recruiting violation was much easier. It usually involved bags of cash delivered to a top recruit, or perhaps a brand new car (or other “gift”) delivered to a recruit’s family. But in the social media era, there’s a lot more to watch out for. Case in point: the University of Georgia is now in hot water over a series of secondary recruiting violations that involve social media.
Is re-tweeting a recruiting violation?
One of the secondary violations involved a re-tweet. Yes, that’s right – in today’s much stricter recruiting environment, even a lapse on Twitter can land your program in trouble. In this case, the re-tweet was followed by some additional text to a journalist’s Twitter post about a recruit verbally committing to Georgia. While details of this case have been redacted, it’s easy to see how this type of thing went down…
Most likely, a beat writer covering the University of Georgia football program found out that a top high school recruit had verbally committed to Georgia. He or she then tweeted about it before writing a feature article about it. An overzealous Georgia rep then saw the tweet and promptly re-tweeted it, probably with a comment like, “Oh yeah, we gonna be strong next year!”
Is posting a photo on social media a recruiting violation?
Another secondary violation involved posting a player’s photo on a company’s social media feed. Again, the details of the case have been redacted, but it sounds as if the player in question was wearing one of the company’s products, and was then featured in a social media post showcasing all of the nation’s top recruits who were wearing similar apparel from that company. Without extrapolating too far, it’s easy to assume that this company might be a company like Nike, Adidas or Puma. The good news here is that no money appeared to change hands (i.e. this was not a paid endorsement), and that the recruit did not know how the photo was eventually going to be used.
Other possible violations
Judging from the above, you can start to see how social media has introduced a whole new “gray area” into college football recruiting. The whole point of the strict new rules around recruitment is that no program should get a recruiting advantage with its tactics. So it’s easy to see why handing over bags of cash is a no-go, and why even something like giving a recruit special access to important events (such as a spring scrimmage) could be considered a potential violation.
Where social media comes into the picture is by subtly introducing the idea of high school football recruit as social media influencer. In today’s sports-crazy era, where college football is basically a professional sport, it’s perhaps no surprise that college programs are beginning to adapt the tactics of professional programs. Just as a pro NFL team might rush to tweet out news about a top free agent “verbally committing” to the team, a college football team also has a strong urge and incentive to tweet out similar news. But as the example of the University of Georgia shows, you have to be careful on how you pull this off if you want to avoid a recruiting violation and a phone call from the NCAA.