Why can’t I Tweet at Recruits?

I’m glad you asked. You can’t tweet at recruits because you’re a booster.

What? I’m not a booster. I never joined the Cougar Club/Crimson Club/Big Blue Scholarship Fund….

You’re probably a booster and just don’t realize it. For now I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’ve never done anything to become a booster.

Great! So, if I’m not a booster, does this mean I can tweet at recruits?

Well, the “don’t contact potential student athletes” rule only applies to boosters, so yeah, I guess you can. Go for it!

Awesome thanks!

……      

Ok I’m back, I just sent out a sweet edit I made of a 4-star defensive back out of North Pole High School. Check it out, I made it look like half of his uniform is from high school and half of it is from college!

Like he’s wearing a high school helmet and college jersey?

No no no no check it out- it looks like he was in the middle of a game when suddenly a velociraptor attacked him and in the tussle his helmet paint was scratched, leaving an aggressively scalloped border that reveals his college helmet was there all along, suggesting to him that he was destined to come play at my favorite school. It gives me goosebumps. Do you have goosebumps?  

Ok cool, yeah, great work. I like the creativity there, but I’ve got bad news: in the very moment you sent that tweet, you became a booster! Booster’s aren’t allowed to tweet at recruits!

That’s how I became a booster? Doesn’t seem right. Show me the rule.

Check it out:

Crootin Rules

So if I’m not a booster, the rule doesn’t apply to me and I am allowed to tweet at recruits, but the moment I tweet at recruits, the NCAA interprets my action as a way of assisting in recruiting and therefore I become a booster? That doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t have to make sense, it’s the NCAA.

So how do I renounce my boostership so I can tweet at recruits again?

More bad news friendo: once you become a booster, you’re a booster for the rest of your life. Longer even. You remain a booster after you die. I’m not making this up, that’s what the rule says.

Doesn’t seem like the NCAA has the authority to bestow eternal titles like that.

You’d think so, but it’s written right here in unmistakable language. Somehow the NCAA has accessed the magnificent powers of eternity:

Forever

So, what if later in life I change my allegiance from my favorite school to my rival school? Am I still a booster for the team I love now even if I end up hating them?

I don’t know if you were listening, but not even death can release you from your immortal boostership. You think changing your shirt is going to make a difference?

Crap, I wish I hadn’t spent 12 hours perfecting my dinosaur edit, but instead only tweeted something like “Good luck on your official visit, I’d love to see you in blue next year.”

Nope, that would have made you a booster too.

Really? Ok I wish I would have simply retweeted his original tweet announcing how #blessed he was to receive his 13th offer (non-committable) to my favorite school.

Nope, technically retweeting that specific tweet is a form of communication designed to promote the institution for which you have just become a booster by retweeting that specific tweet. So it’s prohibited.

Retweets prohibited? Are you serious?

Only if we’re going by the official rules and the NCAA’s broadly sweeping definitions.

Ok fine, I wish I would have simply liked-

BOOSTER.

Ok fine, maybe just followed

BOOSTER.

Really? I can’t even follow the kid?

Does the recruit get a notification when you follow him?

Yes.

That fits the “communication” definition. In that notification can he see basic information like your twitter name and avi?

Yes.

Tell me about your handle and avi.

Oh it’s pretty sweet, I’m @1984BYUpwnsYEWTS4eva and my avi is a picture of a real cougar wearing a cartoon Sailor CougTM hat. I’ve also photoshopped a bloody Utah helmet into his angry mouth and scattered a few red feathers by his talons.

You mean claws.

Are you sure? I think it’s talons.

Doesn’t matter, you’re a booster. You’ve communicated with a recruit in a way that promotes your school. No following allowed.

Ok so maybe I won’t follow him on twitter but what if I just pull up his profile and browse through recent pictures…

BOOSTER.

For real?

No, on that one you’re safe, but it’s creepy so don’t do it.

Ok but what if I just wait until next week after everyone has signed their National Letter of Intent – at that point he’s solid and we can open the  floodgates of edits, tweets, retweets, likes, and follows, right?

Nope. The NCAA prohibits that kind of contact until the student is officially enrolled and classes begin.

But after the NLI signing he can’t switch schools or decommit! It doesn’t make any sense!

It doesn’t have to make sense, it’s the NCAA. All you need to know is this: avoid any interaction with any recruit of any school until they are a student. Otherwise 4 years of victories will be voided because of you, leaving you doomed to live out your days ignominiously until ESPN 30 for 30 tells your sad, ignorant story.   

ESPN would’t make a whole big thing about my tweet.

Wouldn’t they? I think this preview suggests otherwise:

Oh no. Oh no. What have I done? 

The Problem

Ok let’s take a more serious tone. If you’ve ever wondered why people come after you for tweeting at recruits, the above conversation should clarify it. It’s a confusing rule because you don’t find language like “tweet” and “fan” in the rule book. From the NCAA’s standpoint, it’s all about communication and boosters.

The NCAA has a reputation for being several years behind the times when it comes to regulating social media. (Watch for their ice-bucket challenge coming September 2017). Here’s the problem I have with the way it’s currently written:

1- I never agreed to become a booster. I don’t see myself as a booster. If I interact with a recruit, I’m doing so as a fan and hopefully the recruit sees me as such. A creepy, misguided fan; but a fan nonetheless. As it currently stands, the NCAA has given me a label and a set of rules that I never agreed to. I never signed a contract and they aren’t the government, so what incentive do I have to comply? If it went to court, my free speech would trump their adorable rulebook every time.

2- My favorite team doesn’t want me as a booster – at least not in the capacity of recruiting assistant. The idea that someone in the athletic department supports my twitter efforts is absurd. As a fan, I’m occasionally frequently always embarrassed by the tweets of some of those in my own fan base. We’ve all got idiots on board. Should the athletic department be responsible for every idiot? That’s over 420,000 if you’re Alabama. Not only would monitoring every tweet be an unnecessary waste of university resources, it would be virtually impossible.

3- By the time they have this problem figured out, it will be too late. Twitter is easily the best platform for sports fans to interact in 2016, but in time it will either see exponential growth or it will be replaced by something better. Both ideas pose a problem for the NCAA recruiting regulators. How do you monitor a million Alabama fans? How do you enforce the same rules on “disappearing” messages like snapchat? You can’t. The kids who are currently tearing it up on the makeshift football fields of elementary schools will one day view twitter the same way today’s recruits view MySpace. We have no idea what their “twitter” will be, let alone how to regulate it.

 

The Purpose

If this post seems like I’m against the NCAA and their rules, it’s only because I think we can do better. I want to make it clear- I fully support the spirit of the law. My buddy @ParkerRob78, whom you should give a follow on twitter, has been on a crusade to help people become aware of, and begin following this rule. I’ve seen him point out time and time again that these are kids making one of the biggest decisions of their lives – a decision with lasting consequences. Meanwhile, you’re a fan who likes to eat cheetos and yell at your TV. Stop acting like your opinion matters; this isn’t about you.  

Some of you are thinking- “I’m not being selfish, I truly believe attending my school would be the best thing this young man could do. I’m looking out for him! Attending (Utah/BYU/USU) would be a terrible mistake because that means he would (play alongside heathens/not be P5/live in Logan) and that would be AWFUL!” How thoughtful of you. But have you considered that, beyond the number of stars that appear next to his name, you know nothing about this young man and what type of environment he needs? As a graduate of three vastly different institutions of higher education I can assure you there is no one-size-fits-all university.

 The Solution(s)

The way I see it, there are three ways the NCAA can deal with this going forward. Two of them involve sticking to their guns, one leaves the responsibility to us.

Solution #1- The simple solution.

Proposed NCAA Rule #165.7a s.c.Beta article 49 amendment upsilon:

No high school athlete (or high school equivalent in a foreign country) who wishes to play NCAA football may have a twitter account. Any recruit found to be in violation of this rule will lose his first year of eligibility, or next available year thereafter.

Problem solved. The kids would hate it though. They thrive on sharing your edits with the world.

Solution #2 – Collaboration.

Make all official NCAA-affiliated accounts private (or a new “semi-private” option specifically for them). If you want to follow the team, coaches, players, student section, or affiliated media members, you have to send a follow request. Keep the rules and you’re just fine. Decide to get involved in recruiting? Sayonara.

I like this solution because this is how the real world works. We all know that when you attend a game, taking off your clothes is against the rules. Presumably when an individual does this they receive a lifetime ban from the stadium. This is partially why streaking doesn’t happen on a regular basis, and when it does we can all just sit back and say, “Wow. That guy has balls. Right there.”

This solution isn’t perfect and there would be flaws, just like we still have occasional streakers, but I feel like it’s a better solution, at least for now.

Solution #3 – It’s up to us.

Twitter is made up of communities, and we know where the boundaries are. We often read phrases like “BYU twitter is unbearable right now!” or “Ute twitter is so salty!” or “Utah State twitter exists.” What unites us is that we’re all part of NCAA football twitter. Why don’t we embrace the democracy of our community and govern ourselves- not via rules, but rather a code of ethics to which we hold each other accountable and call each other out?

In order to work, they would need to be common sense and not overly specific.

For example:

Acceptable behavior-

  • Light, positive interactions with both recruits and current players.
  • Wishing them good luck.
  • Telling them you’ll support them wherever they go, but still hashtagging #GoCougs

Unacceptable behavior-

  • Being a dick.

That’s it. I think everything else falls under that category. Besides, it’s time for me to stop writing & hear your thoughts. What else should change? What other solutions are out there? I’m all for using the comments section to brainstorm.

About the author

Benji Hadfield

Dentist by day, fisherman also by day, just on different days. BYU fan from birth. I live in North Pole, Alaska; and yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.

  • Chris Bailey

    A fisherman who lives in Alaska that writes about BYU sports. Dude, we must be brothers.

    • Benji

      Awesome! You sound like a great guy. If you’re related to the Brigham City Bailey family we might be distant brothers. Where in Alaska are you and where do you write?