It's that time of year again, ladies and germs. National Signing Day for our favorite foosball team is right around the corner and WWWWOOOOOOOOO LET'S HELP OUT OUR SCHOOL/TEAM BY TWEETING OR FACEBOOKING THAT BIG-TIME RECRUIT BECAUSE BY GAWD HE'LL COME IF I TELL HIM TO! No, kids (and, sadly, grownups), that is decidedly not a good idea.
"What difference does it make anyway? I'm just a fan," you might say. Well, you should know better by now, but when you purchase merchandise, tickets or otherwise give money supporting [insert your school of choice here], you become a booster, or as the NCAA could label you, a "representative of the institution's athletics interests." NCAA Bylaw 6.4.2 lays it out clearly:
6.4.2 Representatives of Athletics Interests. An institution's "responsibility" for the conduct of its intercollegiate athletics program shall include responsibility for the acts of individuals, a corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization when a member of the institution's executive or athletics administration or an athletics department staff member has knowledge or should have knowledge that such an individual, corporate entity or other organization: (Revised: 2/16/00)
(a) Has participated in or is a member of an agency or organization as described in Constitution 6.4.1;
(b) Has made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that institution;
(c) Has been requested by the athletics department staff to assist in the recruitment of prospective student athletes or is assisting in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;
(d) Has assisted or is assisting in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes; or
(e) Is otherwise involved in promoting the institution's athletics program.
You're probably wondering how you become a booster without ever giving a dime to an athletics booster organization or to the school directly. Because, invariably, the money you spent on that NCAA- or school-licensed shirt or cap or grill topper finds its way to the athletic department and/or booster organization of your chosen school. Case in point: Auburn's athletics booster organization owns the iconic interlocking AU logo. Thus, every time you buy a licensed item with that logo attached you have donated to Tigers Unlimited as well as Auburn University's general scholarship fund (which is used to fund athletic scholarships as well). Voila, you are now a booster.
So, why is all of this significant? Boosters cannot recruit or contact recruits, y'all. NCAA Bylaw 13.1.2:
18.104.22.168 General Rule. All in-person, on- and off-campus recruiting contacts with a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete's relatives or legal guardians shall be made only by authorized institutional staff members. Such contact, as well as correspondence and telephone calls, by representatives of an institution's athletics interests is prohibited except as otherwise permitted in this section. Violations of this bylaw involving individuals other than a representative of an institution's athletics interests shall be considered institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1.
So you're sitting there saying, "But if I do Facebook or Tweet to a recruit, it won't affect his eligibility." You would be correct in that thought. But at the same time, you are endangering the school you so dearly love with institutional violations. Never mind the fact that the NCAA compliance officials at your school are charged with reporting these contacts to the NCAA. By contacting recruits, you take time away from compliance officers attempting to do their job of doing constructive things aimed at helping the student athletes and recruits that you just contact. And besides, I think I speak for most folk when I say that persuasively contacting a 17- or 18-year-old kid that is on the verge of making one of the biggest decisions of his life is both ill-advised and let's face it ... creepy.
So in sum: Don't tweet or Facebook a recruit, y'all, because if you do, you have probably committed an NCAA violation. In the end, the kid (and let's face it, they're all just kids) is going to make his decision without regard to what you have to say. Sometimes, all you need is Chic-fil-A to make a recruit happy. So just sit back, relax, and cheer on your school and its recruits from a distance. Gus and company are on a tear as of late and are poised to close strong. They don't need your help.