Fans’ online love for recruits could break NCAA rules

Students may face being barred from athletic events all because of the online fan pages of their favorite high
school recruits.

If college students or sports fans create a Web site aimed at recruiting high school sports players, the National
Collegiate Athletic Association may
require the University to bar them from athletic events. But because they still have the right to make the Web site, no legal action can be taken against them.

In May the NCAA required that North Carolina State’s athletics department send one of its students a cease-and-desist letter telling him to change or take down a facebook fan page he created aimed at recruiting a high school athlete. This stems from NCAA regulations that
universities have to follow – if a fan tries to encourage a student athlete to come to a certain university, that university has to tell the fan to stop via a cease-and-desist court order. If that doesn’t work, the university has to disassociate itself from the fan through barring him or her from athletic events.

The NCAA did not see its policy as problematic according to Christopher Radford, assistant director of public and media with the NCAA. Its goal is to
protect recruits’ privacy and ability to choose a school without pressure from outside “boosters” or fans.

“We don’t see it as a free speech issue,” Radford said.”What we do see it as is a recruiting issue and we want to be sure that we limit the level of intrusion that comes into recruits’ lives.”

Richard Levy, J.B. Smith distinguished professor of constitutional law, likened the University’s athletics program to a private corporation such as Wal-Mart. If someone worked at Wal-Mart, Levy said, and Wal-Mart told them to take down a Web site or be fired, it would be perfectly legal because Wal-Mart isn’t the government. Relating it back to the University, Levy said, students are not entitled to athletic events.

“A court might even, at the threshold, say this isn’t even a punishment,” Levy said. “It’s not a burden on speech because the sanction is not letting you come to an event that the University doesn’t have to let you come to. It’s not taking away something you have an underlying right to do.”

The University’s Athletics Department has to abide by NCAA rules to keep its NCAA designation. Wihout the NCAA designation, the University faces losing the ablitity to compete in NCAA sanctioned events.
The NCAA will look at the violations case-by-case. The University has to keep track of online activity of
students and fans when it comes to
recruiting new players from high school.

Jim Marchiony, associate athletics
director, said the University created a
Facebook page that highlighted the NCAA rules and said it was trying to keep fans informed so as to keep both them and the University out of trouble.

“The people at the NCAA are not unreasonable people,” Marchiony said. “I think as this new technology
becomes more advanced, the NCAA and
its members will continue to take a look at it and see if these rules need to
be adjusted.”