Social Media: Brand Builder or Mind Poison?

A recent interview on ESPN’s radio show Mike & Mike (you can find an article and podcast here) featured two prominent NCAA basketball coaches, John Calipari and Rick Pitino. On paper, these two coaches couldn’t be similar; age (only 6 years apart), coaches at powerhouse basketball schools (University of Kentucky and Louisville separated by only 75 miles), banners (three championships and 11 Final Four appearances between the two, although two of Calipari’s appearances have since been vacated) and the list could go on. While their knowledge and love for the game of basketball may be similar, their view on social media is vastly different.

Pitino referred to social media as a “poison” on his players and he bans them from using sites like Twitter while Calipari refers to social media as a brand builder and goes as far as to encourage his players to participate and use social media platforms. These opposite stances on social media couldn’t be a better illustration of why there is so much debate when it comes to the NCAA and its regulation of social media. You have some coaches prohibiting players from using social media and others promoting the use and regardless of the stance of its coaches, the schools continue to shell out the dough to monitor its players use of social media. If that isn’t a clear example of mixed signals then I don’t know what is.

Many schools, like UK and Louisville, spend tens of thousands of dollars to use monitoring software systems that flag certain keywords and content being used in a post or tweet. The athletes actually must agree to let the school monitor its social media use as a precondition to participate in their respective sports. Some legal scholars view this as a clear violation to the athletes’ First Amendment right to free speech and those views have gained traction as some states have prohibited schools from monitoring the social media accounts of its athletes. The NCAA has encouraged schools to monitor its student athletes on social media sites and in response we have state legislatures passing laws to ban the schools from doing so; another example of how far off we are from some type of amicable resolution.

People are entitled to their own opinions about social media, but we run into problems when those differing opinions lead to ambiguous regulations and policies. It’s hard to say which side has the better argument or if monitoring student-athlete social media accounts is warranted in the first place, but it’s clear that this issue is far from being resolved.

NCAA Loosens Social Media Policy for Sportscasters

I must confess that I pride myself of knowing my college sports, and on having a fairly strong understanding of social media.  I even know that the NCAA has very strict regulations regarding whether athletes can tweet about their teams.  But what I was not familiar with was the NCAA strict ruling on non-athlete social media use.  Apparently, the NCAA had a rule on the books that limited the number of posts credentialed media could post to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  The theory behind the ruling was that constant updates would deter viewers from watching the broadcast versions of the games, and in turn would hurt advertising revenue.  But with upcoming March Madness upon us, there is some good news.  Apparently the NCAA is having a change of heart.  No longer will the NCAA cap a reporter’s use of social media.   NCAA’s change of heart reflects the larger trend among corporations, government and sports organizations from viewing social media as a threat to viewing it as a necessary accessory; one that complements viewing of traditional broadcasts.  I am all for the ruling, but if CBS starts showing little hashtags on the bottom right-side of the screen, much like American Idol or Glee, I’m out!