North Carolina has seen the perils of a lenient Twitter policy, and those days are over. From the Raleigh News & Observer:
UNC has updated its 2010-11 Student Athlete Handbook to stipulate that “each team must identify at least one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitor the content of team members’ social networking sites and postings.” The athletics department also reserves the right to have other staff members monitor athletes’ posts; and if any of an athlete’s online content violates the law or NCAA, University or athletic department policies, sanctions could range from removal of the posting to dismissal from the team.
UNC says its policy isn't related to any one incident, but it's a fair bet that football player Marvin Austin might have had something to do with it. According to the N&O, Austin, who has been questioned by the NCAA about improper contact with agents, posted around 2,400 messages, including ones of him buying designer sunglasses and running up a $143 bill at Cheesecake Factory. There was also the John Henson and Larry Drew III incident, which wasn't much of an incident but prompted both players to complain they were being asked to tone it down (and thus not be themselves).
Schools have had Twitter and Facebook policies like this before, but North Carolina's requirement of coaches to be social media directors is one of the more serious we've seen. More interesting than anything, though, is the way this plays into compliance. This summer, a more punitive NCAA has shown college programs that it's in their best interest to carefully monitor the contact their players have with agents, and to work as hard as possible to police their tiny corner of the college hoops world. This is one way to do so. Given the centralized nature of Twitter and Facebook and the way agents operate, it just might be the best way.
(Hat tip: Beyond the Arc)