The NCAA has been working hard to keep up with the advancement of technology as it relates to communication avenues and their bylaws.
For a few years, phone calls from coaches were not allowed during Non-Contact period. However, coaches could sent text messages. Those were before the unlimited texting plans came out. I heard stories of prospects' parents getting phone bills for hundreds of dollars...
More and more, college coaches are relying on social networks to do their homework on prospects as well as communicate. As we join more social networks with cool new applications for communicating, I suspect the NCAA will continue to make amendments to their bylaws to ensure that coaches are not finding "loop holes" to contact student-athletes.
With the meteoric rise of Facebook and others like MySpace, the ability to message people using their internal email platforms has become popular yet cumbersome at the same time. I find myself trying to remember if I sent a message through standard email or through one of the social network sites. Who is contacting me, where and how? It reminds me of the scene from the movie, He's Just Not That Into You, with Drew Barrymore when she mentions that she has to go around checking all of the different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies is exhausting.
Well, the NCAA has adapted accordingly. The NCAA Division I Bylaw 188.8.131.52, states that, "e-mail is not limited to a traditional e-mail service provided by an institution, Website or Internet service provider. Therefore, it is permissible for an athletics department staff member to send electronically transmitted correspondence to a prospective student-athlete using a social networking Web site's (e.g., MySpace, Facebook) e-mail feature. All other electronically transmitted correspondence including, but not limited to, text messaging, Instant Messenger, chat rooms or message boards (e.g., a user's wall) within a social networking Web site or through other services or applications remain impermissible.
For example, a coaching staff member with a MySpace or Facebook account may send electronically transmitted correspondence to a prospective student-athlete's MySpace or Facebook account using the e-mail inbox feature located on that user's profile page. However, a coaching staff member may not send electronic correspondence to a prospective student-athlete via the comments feature on MySpace or the wall-to-wall feature on Facebook."
It goes on further by adding that it is permissible for a prospective student-athlete's name and/or picture to appear on an athletics department staff member's profile page of a social networking Web site to identify the prospective student-athlete as a "friend" of the athletics department staff member. Institutions should note that the identification of the prospective student-athlete as a "friend" on an athletics staff members profile page confirms only the institution's potential recruitment of that individual. However, institutions are reminded they may not make any public comments about the prospective student-athlete's ability, the contribution that the prospective student-athlete might make to the institution's team or the likelihood of the prospective student-athlete's signing with that institution.
The fact that colleges can contact you through social networks is good in that it provides another avenue for contacting prospects. However, it is a reminder to be careful about what you are posting to your social network profiles...College coaches are out there looking.
The internet alone can be image damaging for athletes. Michael Phelps and Matt Leinert anyone?
However, when it comes to college recruiting and potentially $100,000 in scholarship money, student athletes need to very cautious about what is posted on their profiles.
I currently work with a college kicker who is graduating and hoping to get a shot at the pros. When I became his "friend" on facebook, I had the ability to look at his profile and all of his photos. I came across several where he had been tagged by others while attending a Halloween costume party. In several of the photos, he was holding a beer. He is over 21 and legal to drink alcohol, but I don't think that he would want NFL teams seeing photos of him partying...
Both NFL and Colleges want to recruit athletes with integrity, good character, etc. The internet in general, makes it easier for everyone to find and see people.
If you are actively using your social network profiles, exercise caution in what you post and be aware of what others may post about you. Ultimately, you shouldn't have to worry about if anything is posted or not about you if you are an upstanding citizen. However, high school athletes are still young and make mistakes from time to time. Believe or not, I made a couple in high school.
When those mistakes are made, just make sure that they don't find their way onto the internet...Here is a good article on this topic.
Be smart on the field, at school, at events and online.