The advancement of technology in our society has created many new and exciting forms of communication and sources of information. However, in the wonderful world of athletics compliance, this has created a rather daunting challenge. The NCAA and directors of compliance around the country have been enforcing rules concerning handwritten letters, telephone calls and face-to-face contacts. Now we are faced with chat rooms, instant messaging, video conferencing, message boards, electronic mail, Web sites and many other methods of communication that must be regulated by NCAA member institutions.
In light of some situations that have occurred at other Division I institutions around the country, we thought it might be a good idea to share with you what we have learned specifically about booster Web sites, message boards and chat rooms.
First of all, let me emphasize how much all of us in the Saint Mary's athletics department value the supporters of this program. The fact remains, however, that the NCAA does hold us responsible for the actions of all our boosters. That is why we would like to take this opportunity to educate those who support the athletics department.
Booster Web sites and Message Boards:
The internet has provided the opportunity for boosters from all over the world to communicate with each other in a way that was not possible before. The following regulations regarding those sites are very important for all boosters who participate on these message boards to know:
(1) The NCAA does not consider the boosters who run these Web sites to be members of the media. Therefore, when the administrators of these sites contact a prospective student-athlete (an individual who has started classes for the ninth grade), interview them and place that interview on their Web site, Saint Mary's is responsible for an impermissible contact. Recently, the University of Kentucky had a situation where some football recruits were interviewed by the administrator of such a Web site, which resulted in a violation for Kentucky. As a result of this violation, the university had to declare both recruits (who eventually signed with Kentucky) ineligible and appeal to the NCAA to have their eligibility reinstated.
(2) Boosters participating on a message board are not permitted to write, call or e-mail a recruit. Sometimes we will read on a message board that someone thinks it is okay to contact a prospect once they sign a National Letter of Intent with Saint Mary's. However, that signing does not change the fact he or she is still a prospect and all prohibitions against booster contact continue to apply. We often also hear comments that because a person is not a graduate of Saint Mary's or a season ticket holder, they believe they are not a booster and it is okay for them to contact a prospect. However, part of the NCAA's definition of a booster includes anyone who contacts a recruit on behalf of the institution. Therefore, as soon as someone on a message board e-mails or sends a message out to a recruit, they automatically become a booster and are subject to the NCAA rules prohibiting such contact.
(3) The NCAA considers chat rooms and instant messaging to be telephone calls. Since boosters are not permitted to call a recruit, participating in a chat room with a recruit or instant messaging him or her is not permitted.
As electronic communication technology continues to advance, the opportunity for the boosters of an athletics program to have impermissible contact with a recruit or that recruit's family is greatly increased. However, the school's responsibility for that contact remains the same. To protect the Saint Mary's athletics program and the young people who compete for all of us, we ask that all boosters who enjoy access to the type of Web sites described above assist us in following the guidelines that govern those sites. As always, your efforts to help Saint Mary's remain compliant are greatly appreciated.