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College Sports, Division I, Division II, Division III, Education

UNC Infractions Decision Follow-Up: ESPN.com Article on Social-Media Policies at NCAA Member Institutions

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions’ March 12, 2012, public infractions report in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) enforcement case continues to generate discussion on social-media. Myron Medcalf from ESPN.com wrote an article, “Policing the social media craze”, that explored how NCAA member institutions are addressing the issues associated with coaches and srtudent-athletes’ use of social-media. Medcalf noted:

College athletes have latched onto the craze. Few avoid the outlets. For most, they’re casual tools that rarely cause problems. But when the platforms become online sounding boards for emotional young adults, well, issues can arise. College basketball coaches and athletic directors have dealt with a multitude of social media challenges in recent years.

Medcalf’s piece shares insights from college coaches, athletics administrators and social-media monitoring services vendors. Medcalf also refers to the UNC infractions case as one example of the pitfalls of social-media.

The Committee on Infractions, through the release of the March 12 public infractions report, determined UNC was “responsible for multiple violations, including academic fraud, impermissible agent benefits, ineligible participation and a failure to monitor its football program”. The committee held that “over the course of three seasons, six football student-athletes competed while ineligible as a result of these violations, and multiple student-athletes received impermissible benefits totaling more than $31,000″. Most importantly, the committee elaborated on its monitoring expectations for NCAA member institutions with a “heightened awareness” of possible rules-violation.

The Committee on Infractions determined, during 2009 and 2010, UNC “failed to monitor the conduct and administration of the football program” when it failed to: (a) monitor the activities of a former student-athlete; and (b) investigate information it obtained suggesting that a student-athlete may have been in violation of NCAA legislation. In reaching its failure to monitor conclusion, the committee did not impose an absolute duty upon member institutions to regularly monitor certain sources of information (e.g., social media sites), but declared “the duty to do so may arise as part of an institution’s heightened awareness when it has or should have a reasonable suspicion of rules violations”. As a result, NCAA member institutions should increase monitoring if the receipt of information or an event trips the “heightened awareness” trigger.

For example, the Committee on Infractions noted institutions do not have an absolute duty to regularly monitor social media sites. However, an institution acquires the duty to do so if it obtains a heightened awareness through a “reasonable suspicion of rules violations”. [Note: The committee explained "if the membership desires that the duty to monitor social networking sites extend further than we state here, the matter is best dealt with through NCAA legislation".]

The complete ESPN.com article can be read by clicking here.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, compliance, professional development and legal services.

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