North Carolina's Notice of Allegations, delivered to the school earlier this week by the NCAA, is certainly stocked with all kinds of facts, figures, and redacted information to be discussed and debated between now and the Oct. 28 hearing with Committee on Infractions. The case will end up being a standard for NCAA enforcement in modern college football history. It may be buried well below the lede on Sportscenter, but trust me: we will remember this case.
One aspect of the case that is particularly notable is in alleged violation 9b.
In February through June 2010, the institution did not adequately and consistently monitor social networking activity that visibly illustrated potential amateurism violations within the football program, which delayed the institution's discovery and compounded the provision of impermissible benefits provided in Allegation Nos. 4-a, 4-c, 4-d and 4-e.This is where the entire investigation started. All 42 pages of letters and allegations can be summed up in a series of 140-character tweets from Greg Little and Marvin Austin. Well, technically, it was a combination of tweeting some Rick Ross lyrics, TwitPic'ing pool parties and expensive dinner bills, along with some other loose evidence of misconduct.
So the NCAA is wondering how North Carolina's compliance office did not see a red flag when their star student athletes were living a lavish lifestyle in big cities the summer before their senior season. Now, being charged with Failure To Monitor, this case becomes the NCAA's official acknowledgement of social networking in collegiate sports.
Unfortunately, they are probably entering the game a little too late. Acting reactively, as usual, the NCAA has essentially let compliance offices all over the country know that this is something they should be monitoring closely. Here's the thing: it's really not that hard.
Make Twitter lists, download Tweetdeck, organize the accounts however you choose -- there of plenty of options. If the "search" function is too difficult to figure out, then require athletes to include their Twitter handle at the same time you get the rest of their contact information. Most of these student-athletes (particularly the ones most at-risk of impermissible benefits) will want as many people as possible to have unprotected access to their Twitter accounts. Amateurism rules prevent an athlete from benefiting off their own likeness financially, but Twitter allows a pro prospect to begin marketing themselves while in school. Certain athletes enjoy building their brand, interacting with fans and getting a more hands-on approach to shaping people's perception.
All the compliance office has to do is watch, and ask questions.
Recently Maryland defensive lineman and Twitter extraodinaire A.J. Francis (@The_Franchyze) tweeted a lyrics from a song by Rick Ross (surprise!) and Kanye West -- "Live Fast, Die Young."
Seems like we getting' money for the wrong things,Now, someone with a common knowledge of the lyrics on Ross' 2010 release Teflon Don might recognize that quote. But none of those people are in Maryland's compliance office. To them, this seemed like a questionable Twitter-post that could possibly be dealing with impermissible benefits. No need to launch an investigation, but the office took action.
Look around Maseratis for the whole team.
Now Francis was asked to remove the post, but I think once Compliance explained the situation he understood. There could be a discussion about free speech, but we have yet to see a Chad Ochocinco-type character challenge the authority of his school on those grounds. But the point of the matter is that if North Carolina's compliance office had been keeping an eye on the profiles of its star athletes, there could have been more immediate action to nip the wrongdoing in the bud.
So the message has been sent to compliance offices everywhere. It's time to wake up and follow your student-athletes on their social networking sites. The fans are, most of the media is, and for both of those groups to find out about a potential violations well before the compliance office is unacceptable.
Go ahead, just follow them. Trust me, most student-athletes will be happy to raise their follower/friend count.
(Image Credit: Twitter)