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NCAA 2.0: Text Messaging and Recruits

The NCAA's new guidelines banning text messaging don't go nearly far enough.

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The list of rules governing contact between NCAA coaches and potential recruits is as long as my arm, and contains a lot more words. But all those rules, guidelines and memos haven't been able to keep pace with a "Web 2.0" world.

Case in point: this week, the NCAA member institutions voted overwhelmingly to uphold a ban on text-messaging of recruits. Kerry Kenny, the vice-chair of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, summarized the NCAA's position, saying, "We believe that text messaging and instant messaging are both highly unprofessional in the recruiting process. You wouldn't use text messaging to contact an employer when searching for a job, and it's unlikely that an employer would contact you with a text message to offer you the job."

Another oft-cited reason for the ban is cost. Typical text-messaging plans charge a fee for incoming messages. A hot recruit, beseiged by a number of eager coaches via text, might wind up with a uncomfortably large wireless bill as a result.

So texts and IMs to recruits are out. That's great. I applaud this action. It's the right thing to do.

I just wish this rule didn't have holes that would comfortably accomodate an 18-wheeler.

As ESPN's Dana O'Neil points out, this ban does not cover e-mail. So while a text message sent to 555-1234 is verboten, an e-mail sent to 555-1234@verizon.net is just spiffy.

I eagerly await the NCAA's ruling on Facebook profiles. I expect something along the lines of "sending good karma and virtual roses is OK, but using the Zombies application to bite potential recruits is unacceptable."

Here's the thing: technology is always going to move faster than a bureacracy. The NCAA will never keep up by creating a new rule for each new mode of communication. To eliminate the loopholes, cut the rule book in half and create clear guidelines that aren't subject to interpretation and that coaches, players and fans can understand.

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