Social Media And Recruiting: What’s Acceptable And What’s Not?


Sep 15, 2012; Knoxville, TN, USA; Florida Gators fan Katelyn Owens (center) waits among Tennessee Volunteers fans with her husband Andrew (center left) for the Vol Walk to begin prior to the game at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

With the increased use of Twitter and social media in college football recruiting, a question that often arises is — What’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable?

Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to either of these questions. Recently Tennessee’s Associate Athletics Director for Compliance, Todd Dooley, did provide us with a little insight to this matter.

The first inquiry we had was “Are former players allowed to tweet recruits and attempt to possibly sway them towards their alma mater?”

Todd Dooley: Typically no, the NCAA views alums and former student-athletes as representatives of athletics interest (ROAI).  The laymen term for ROAI is booster and the NCAA’s definition is much broader than someone who simply donates or buys season tickets.

Here’s the definition of a booster that Todd Dooley provided us.

13.02.14 – Representative of Athletics Interests.
A “representative of the institution’s athletics interests” is an individual, independent agency, corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization who is known (or who should have been known) by a member of the institution’s executive or athletics administration to: (Revised: 2/16/00)(a) Have participated in or to be a member of an agency or organization promoting the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program;(b) Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that institution;

(c) Be assisting or to have been requested (by the athletics department staff) to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;

(d) Be assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or

(e) Have been involved otherwise in promoting the institution’s athletics program.

That definition leaves it pretty wide open as to what constitutes a booster. Pretty much anyone supporting the athletic program can be considered a booster. Now Dooley did add that former players that are members of the media do have a little bit of leeway, but not free reign. That explains why former players like Erik Ainge and Jayson Swain can interview recruits and not have to worry about any repercussions.

The second, and biggest question we had was “What are the rules regarding fans tweeting recruits?”

That’s definitely the most asked question we see. Here’s what Dooley had to say in response.

The NCAA rules here are ambiguous.  Because of the ever-changing landscape of social media, the NCAA does not have a hard and fast about this.  The NCAA would fall back on the rule prohibiting fans (ROAI) from contacting/recruiting for an institution.  However, I don’t believe the NCAA is willing to spend man-hours upon man-hours tracking and unraveling tweets to prospective student athletes from fans.  They most certainly focus on issues of fan or ROAI’s offering inducements to prospective student athletes but in my opinion the casual tweets offer a dynamic the NCAA isn’t willing to confront.

So basically while the NCAA doesn’t fully condone fans tweeting recruits, they realize there’s essentially nothing they can do about it. There’s no way the NCAA could ever keep up with every tweet that goes out to a recruit. Not to mention they’d basically be placing secondary violations on every school that competes in football.

With that being said you still need to be careful about tweeting recruits. It’s doesn’t matter what team you root for, you need to remember that these recruits are 16 and 17 year old kids that are trying to make a huge life decision at a very young age. The last thing they need is a disgruntled fan base ridiculing them about a choice they’ve made, especially when that fan base has absolutely no insight into what goes into that choice.

The other thing to remember is that when you’re tweeting recruits you’re representing an entire fan base. Recruits notice what you tweet to other recruits, and they remember.

While I don’t believe fans tweeting recruits makes a huge difference in a players commitment, it should still be practiced with extreme caution — if at all.


For more on the Tennessee Volunteers, Social Media and Recruiting make sure to follow @AllforTennessee