On August 27, 2012, Nicole Auerbach of USA Today published a story regarding the University of Southern California linking individual student-athlete Twitter handles on the institution’s athletics website. In addition, USC also listed Twitter handles on the football program’s first depth chart. While this could be seen as a lesson in accountability for student-athletes, it may also impose an enhanced duty to monitor social media for the institution’s athletics compliance office.
Currently, the March 12, 2012, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill enforcement case is the primary authority on an institution’s responsibility in terms of monitoring student-athlete social media accounts. In this case, the Committee on Infractions (COI) noted that institutions do not have an absolute duty to regularly monitor social media websites. However, the COI added an institution acquires the duty to do so if it obtains a heightened awareness through a “reasonable suspicion of rules violations”. The COI further 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”.
Although the COI’s view in the UNC case would not seem to impose an absolute duty for USC to monitor, an institution actually promoting a student-athlete’s social media account on an institutional platform may fall outside this rationale. Because there is no all-encompassing NCAA policy regarding social media, the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends institutions athletic compliance offices work with institutional coaches to implement social media policies and procedures at their institution that address rules-education and monitoring.