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NCAA Clarifies Social Networking Rules For Agents

The NCAA took notice of a recent popular post on this blog: Coaches Can Talk To Athletes On Twitter/FB. What About Agents? Not only was the post published, but I tried reaching out to the NCAA on Twitter to answer the question.  A week and a half went by with absolutely no communication, and then yesterday, I received an email from Cameron Schuh, the Associate Director for Public and Media Relations for the NCAA.

Here is part of Cam’s initial email:

For the NCAA, the issue of social networking is less about the technology and more about the recruiting aspect. Our members are concerned about the level of intrusion in a young person’s life related to recruiting, and the celebrity culture that can develop around the recruitment process, which is why limits are placed on how often coaches can contact recruits.  Contrary to what you stated in your blog entry, the NCAA’s recruiting bylaws have not changed in any way.  The NCAA is taking those existing recruiting rules and applying them to these new communication platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Text messaging was prohibited in 2007 based on the urging of student-athletes and the student-athlete advisory committee (SAAC) who felt their lives were being intruded upon, not to mention the escalating costs they were seeing from the usage of the texts.  Now if a prospective student-athlete chooses to have the Twitter and/or Facebook direct messages come to them through their phone, that is their prerogative to do, as long as the coach is using the social networking application and not texting himself/herself. (Division III adopted more stringent legislation that strictly prohibits the use of social networking sites within the athletics recruiting process, including e-mail functions.  This legislation’s adoption was based on the urging of Division III student-athletes in 2008.)

In relation to these rules/bylaws and agents, they still remain in place as well.  Your blog is wrong when it states that NCAA rules prohibit contact with student-athletes until a certain point of their collegiate careers.  I want to clarify that NCAA rules do not prohibit student-athletes from having contact with an agent. NCAA rules do, however, prohibit a student-athlete or their family and friends from having an agreement – oral or written – with an agent or accept benefits from an agent until his or her eligibility expires.

An important thing to remember is that just because the NCAA rules do not prohibit student-athletes from having contact with an agent, individual states may limit what an agent can and cannot do in terms of contacting potential clients.  States that have signed onto the UAAA prohibit an agent from initiating contact with a student-athlete unless registered with those states.  In a follow-up email, Cam had this to say:

INCAA rules do not prohibit agents from having contact with prospective student-athletes, current student-athletes and/or their families or friends.  What the NCAA rules do clearly state is that no agreement – oral and/or written – may be in place between an agent and a student-athlete (nor their families or friends), nor may a student-athlete accept benefits from an agent, until his or her eligibility has expired.

So along those lines, there are no restrictions between agents and student-athletes in the NCAA rules/bylaws as far as communicating through social networking … AS LONG AS no oral and/or written agreement has been made.

What the NCAA rules/bylaws state in specific regard to coaches contact with recruits through social networking is that the one-to-one forms of communication through those sites (direct messages, emails, etc.) are allowed.  What is not permitted in regard to social networking sites are that a coach may not post messages on their own walls or Twitter pages about a recruit, nor post messages on a recruit’s wall/Twitter page.

Also, please note that these rules are for Division I and Division II ONLY.  Division III does not allow any form of communication through social networking sites.

From this, I gather that agents not only can Facebook message/Twitter Direct Message potential clients, but can post on their walls and @ reply to them as well.  As Cam stated, there are no restrictions between agents and student-athletes in the NCAA rules/bylaws as far as communicating through social networking.  Before you go ahead and get crazy with your wall posts, though, make sure that you are not violating any state rules.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

6 replies on “NCAA Clarifies Social Networking Rules For Agents”

Does anyone really believe that agents are going to contact prospective talent through social networking and NOT immediately try to rope them into some type of oral agreement or contract? It's an agent's job to find new clients and take care of the ones they already have. How are the NCAA's rules enforceable?

The NCAA's rules are enforceable if players' associations refuse to authorize membership for agents who violate NCAA rules. Additionally, if the NCAA brings suit against an agent for violation of rules, it could serve as a deterrent.

One of the most helpful little articles I have read all year, and good news for sure. This is what I've always believed, but the NCAA just never confirmed it.

Thanks for posting, Darren.

This is an interesting writeup. I was wondering how the new rules applied to social media and emerging technology and new communication methods. It's good that the NCAA laid down some ground rules. A lot of football kickers and punters I coach were getting tweets from coaches up until this rule was set up!

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