The NCAA's rules on social media and recruiting are a jumbled, confusing mess. Coaches may not text message players. They may not publicly reach out to players on social media sites. Coaches can send emails to potential prospects, and in the NCAA's eyes "email" includes the private messaging features on Twitter and Facebook. But if recruits use Twitter through their phone's text messaging system -- an outdated method, to be sure -- those messages count as texts and are not allowed.
It's a messy, brave new recruiting world out there. Frankly, it's a miracle we haven't yet seen a coach make a massive Twitter slip-up by, say, accidentally turning a direct message into a public tweet. Hey, it happens.
On Sunday, we may have seen the closest thing yet. The message wasn't direct, and it didn't come from a coach; instead, it came from Memphis coach Josh Pastner's sister, Courtney Pastner, and was directed to Rodney Purvis, an elite 2012 recruit who listed Memphis as among his potential collegiate destinations this past Saturday.
The tweet itself -- now deleted, but saved in screencap form by Prep Rally's Cameron Smith -- was harmless enough. On Sunday, after Purvis tweeted his disappointment with his AAU team's loss in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League in Los Angeles, Courtney Pastner responded:
"Rodney, I was at the game. You're the real deal. I can tell you're a workhorse. #keepyourheadup"
Encouraging, friendly, seemingly innocuous ... what's the big deal?
The big deal, simply, is that the tweet may -- repeat: may -- constitute a violation of NCAA rules. A silly, minor violation, but a violation all the same. The NCAA's rule is as follows:
NCAA rules do not allow comments about possible recruits on an institution’s social media page or a page belonging to someone affiliated with the institution. In addition, these pages cannot feature photos of prospects and messages cannot be sent to recruits using these social media technologies other than through their email function.
The question the NCAA has to solve is whether Courtney Pastner is "someone affiliated with the institution." If so, the tweet would be a violation of those rules. If not, the tweet is what it is. No harm, no foul.
Is Pastner's young sister "affiliated" with his program? A former high school basketball star in Texas, Courtney Pastner went on to play for Texas Tech and Houston, and she has no professional role in Pastner's program. But could the timing of her tweet -- which came just a day after Purvis began considering Memphis -- and her admission that she was present for an AAU game in Los Angeles constitute affiliation?
The other possibility is that the NCAA will see Courtney Pastner as a booster. In other words, as a fan. School compliance offices do their best to patrol and shut down any alumni or fan sites that attempt to influence a player to attend their schools. This is, as you'd imagine, a thoroughly difficult task.
Whatever category Courtney Pastner's tweet falls under, if it does become an issue, it's likely to be a minor one. But it is a reminder to beleaguered compliance directors everywhere: Sure, your coaches need to know the rules -- but it doesn't hurt to spread the word to family members, too.