Last week, On the Banks told you why it is a lousy idea to tweet directly at recruits. Nick Ojea, Rutgers Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, was kind enough to explain some of the finer points.
Hi Nick, thanks for talking to us. First question: what makes someone a "booster"?
By definition, a booster is an individual, outside agency (e.g. sponsors), corporate entity (e.g., Nike) or other organization who has played an integral role in the promotion of RU Athletics (e.g. IMG); has made a financial donation to RU Athletics or to booster groups like Court Club or Touchdown Club; has assisted or has been requested (by a RU athletics staff member) to assist in the recruitment of a prospective student-athlete; has assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or has been involved otherwise in promoting the institution's athletics program.
Are all alumni automatically boosters?
Once an individual interacts with a prospective student-athlete about attending Rutgers, the booster legislation is triggered. An alumnus who interacts with prospective student-athletes furthers this application of the rule.
Are all people who ever went to a Rutgers game boosters? What if you own a Rutgers ballcap but never went to the school or even a game?
Not necessarily. However, have they made a donation to RU Athletics either by straight donation or seat donation? Are they affiliated with Rutgers in some other way? Have they triggered any element of the booster definition? These are the questions we need to look at. You revert back to the individual's actions and whether they are triggering any of the guidelines identified. If the individual is promoting RU to prospective student-athletes, then YES he/she triggers the booster definition.
What do the rules specifically prohibit "boosters" from doing?
As a booster, you cannot have contact with any prospective student-athlete, and this includes social media. Up until the social media movement, one of the main concerns was in-person contact (e.g. at an athletic event, in the community) between a booster and prospective student-athlete. In these instances, any dialogue that occurred in excess of an exchange of a greeting triggered a violation. Incidental contact (e.g. walking through the concourse and bumping into a prospective student-athlete) is not an issue provided the dialogue does not go beyond a greeting.
With social media, any interaction is prearranged and is therefore a violation. It is important to note that communication is relaxed once the prospective student-athlete has signed with Rutgers or has been admitted to the University. Verbal commitments are non-binding. Therefore, the contact restrictions apply. [editor's note: Once a recruit is officially a Rutgers athlete, the recruit contact rules do not apply]
Can boosters reply to a recruits tweet?
Unfortunately, we cannot. This is where we see violations occur. We need to keep in mind that even our coaches cannot interact with prospective student-athletes publicly. The rules are intended to provide a barrier from undue influence. The interaction between boosters and prospective student-athletes is contrary to the legislation. Social media has made it difficult for everyone, including Compliance Offices around the country. We do our best to educate outside groups on the rules and hope they understand the bigger picture.
Can boosters "favorite" or retweet (without adding any commentary) a recruit's tweet?
Great question...We need to keep in mind the fundamental NCAA rule prohibits boosters from recruiting. Any interaction by a booster to publicize a PSA is problematic per the NCAA regulations. In this instance, even though there is no commentary, the booster is initiating contact and the fundamental rule prohibits booster contact.
Can boosters mention a recruits twitter handle or name? Example: "Hey #CHOPNation, go check out @JohnnyProspect's film on Hudl. Kid can fly, and he is visiting RU this weekend." Violation?
Unfortunately, we need to apply the NCAA rule surrounding booster contact. Our fans are passionate about Rutgers Athletics. It is tough to resist this social media activity, but we ask our fans and boosters to follow the rules prohibiting contact with prospects. A violation of these rules could jeopardize our recruiting efforts with the particular prospect.
If a recruit takes a picture that displays his address (i.e. "check out the 37 handwritten notes I got from Coach Flood today"), boosters cannot send mail to the athlete's house, right?
Correct, only coaches and athletic staff may send letters to prospective student-athletes. The booster restrictions apply even with general correspondence and email.
Thanks again to Nick for explaining the official rules on social media issues and recruits. Some of this is clear-cut, but much of it is less intuitive, and more nuanced. If you have any followup questions, you can tweet @RUCompliance.
The take-away? Keep it simple, and do not tweet recruits or contact them in any way. No good will come of it:
Pitt made a recruiting violation, sanction them immediately. pic.twitter.com/CF99BwdRV3— PennStateRecruiting (@psuinsider) April 15, 2014