Let’s be honest here. The day I signed my National Letter of Intent (the binding contract to be an athlete at Boston College) was one of the happiest days of my life. What I did not realize was I was basically signing my life away to the athletic department for four years. LOL okay…I’m being a bit dramatic, but in reality there’s a lot that I have to give up or keep on certain terms in order for my contract to stay binding. Before coming into every academic year, student athletes are required to fill out and sign forms for compliance. We had 14 different forms this year. Three of these forms dealt with media and promotional release agreements. Basically the school is allowed to post anything and everything that has to do with promoting BC athletics and I have no other choice than to sign this…the last sentence always cracks me up… Here’s where I think there is a bit of bull*$#@.
There is no written agreement that I sign before coming into the school year that allows anyone in the athletic department to control what I post on social media, yet they regulate it and coaches have asked players to take down content from time to time. Again, I get it no one really cares about golf but a few handful let alone collegiate golf. Going back to what I presented a couple weeks ago, people care about football and collegiate football players are even getting verified check marks (you know the little blue check that goes next to a “famous person’s” name…it’s kind of a big deal.
In more recent years, coaches and athletic departments find certain posts made by their players to be a threat to the department’s name and image, and therefore are beginning to take away and limit the use of their athlete’s social media. The lack of the freedom of personal social media pages forces student athletes to give coaches personal information, which Constitutionally might not be legal if the athlete’s Fourth Amendment right is taken away on certain universities and teams, as the NCAA has yet to create uniform terms and regulations. Many schools are creating social media policies and at the same time choosing their own measures. Some schools do not have policies on social media, but this is where a conflict emerges since the NCAA does not require its member schools to monitor social media accounts of student athletes but encourage schools to do so. With these unmonitored policies, universities have gone to the extent of installing software to track everything that is posted on social media by their student athletes, which may be considered unconstitutional.
Varsity Monitor and UDiligence are two companies involved in such monitoring for universities. This software is installed in the student athletes’ social media accounts, and searches for words usually having to do with sex, drugs, or alcohol. If a word is detected, the software notifies the coach by email. Schools have the ability to customize, which words are set to trigger the email. Universities such as LSU, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, Utah State, Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor, University of Florida, New Mexico and Missouri are turning to this software as social media expands and the publicity of the athlete increases.
Coaches at certain universities purposefully friend their athletes and collect all of their usernames to see what each player is posting. All of these monitoring techniques may be used after consent is given from the account holder, but in many situations, consent is not given voluntarily. Constitutionally, it is difficult to determine whether these restrictions and monitoring systems are unlawful. When coaches ask their athletes for account usernames, they are gaining information that is publicly available. Schools are already monitoring their student athletes with drug tests, and thus argue that monitoring social media is no different than giving drug tests. When a coach sends a “friend” request or adds another athlete on a social media account, the athlete receiving the request has the opportunity to deny the friend request. By accepting the coach’s request, the athlete is thereby giving “consent” to the coach to look through the athlete’s page.
NCAA member universities are at no risk of committing any constitutional violation since all student athletes consent to monitoring methods of drugs and alcohol; however, social media regulations are not yet stated on the contract. When it comes to BC, I can say for sure that no student athlete has yet to sign a social media agreement. What we do have to sign is a student athlete code of conduct. This again does not state that my coach or anyone in the athletics department has the right to regulate what I post on social media. I cannot speak for other programs, but I do know that even my coach will step in if he thinks a post is inappropriate. If the BC Golf Team is regulated, then you can most definitely assume that the big name teams have some kind of rules set for their players.
My point here is not that the athletic departments should have no control over what their athletes post, but rather the NCAA needs to pick up the pace when it comes to making set regulations for each university to follow. There have been multiple court cases just to highlight the complications social media has created for collegiate athletics. This issue has not only created ambiguity over what is legal and what is not, but also what is okay to post and what is not.
Personally, I am no longer allowed to post a picture with in-season gear on and I am no way shape or form allowed to set my profile to the public setting. Not that I want to set my profile to public, but why does in-season gear matter if I could just post a picture from last season and it would look like in-season gear anyways…Also, I have personally gotten into some trouble not just in a picture I posted, but a picture someone else posted and tagged me in, captioned: “All smiles since we’re off season.” Please let me know if you personally think that embarrasses the athletic program at BC…