Monthly Booster Education

As part of the Compliance Office's Education Outreach Program, we will be writing a monthly column discussing hot topics in NCAA legislation that concern representatives of athletics interests, more commonly known as boosters. A booster of UC is anyone who a) participated in or is a member of an organization promoting UC's athletics program; b) contributed to the athletics department or any of its booster clubs; c) assisted or has been requested by the athletics staff to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes; d) assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or e) been involved in otherwise promoting UC's athletics program. Once an individual, agency, corporate entity or other organization is identified as a booster, the individual, agency, corporate entity or other organization retains that identity indefinitely (See NCAA Bylaw 13.02.13).

With the quick advancement of technology in our society and the recent rule interpretations from the NCAA concerning social networking, we think a great way to begin the monthly education outreach columns is to discuss booster Web sites, message boards, and social networking sites.

First of all, let us emphasize how much all of us in the University of Cincinnati Athletics Department value the supporters of this program. The fact remains, however, that the NCAA holds us responsible for the actions of all of our boosters. That is why we would like to take this opportunity to educate those who support the athletics department.

The internet has provided the opportunity for boosters from all over the world to communicate with each other in a way that was not possible before. The following regulations regarding the internet are very important for all boosters to know:

(1) Web sites: The NCAA does not consider the boosters who run Web sites to be members of the media. Therefore, when the administrators of these sites contact a prospective student-athlete (an individual who has started classes for the seventh grade in basketball and ninth grade for all other sports), interview them, and place that interview on their Web site, Cincinnati is responsible for the impermissible contact. Recently, the University of Kentucky had a situation where football prospective student-athletes were interviewed by the administrator of such a Web site, which resulted in a NCAA violation for Kentucky. As a result of this violation, the University had to declare both prospective student-athletes (who eventually signed with Kentucky) ineligible and appeal to the NCAA to have their eligibility reinstated.

(2) Message Boards: Boosters participating on a message board are not permitted to write, call, instant message, text, chat with, or e-mail a prospect. Sometimes we will read on a message board that someone thinks it is okay to contact a prospect once they sign a National Letter of Intent with Cincinnati. However, that signing does not change the fact he or she is still a prospect and all prohibitions against booster contact continue to apply. We often also hear comments that because a person is not a graduate of Cincinnati or a season ticket holder, they believe they are not a booster and it is okay for them to contact a prospect. However, part of the NCAA's definition of a booster includes anyone who contacts a recruit on behalf of the institution. Therefore, as soon as someone on a message board e-mails or sends a message out to a recruit, they automatically become a booster and are subject to the NCAA rules prohibiting such contact.

(3) Social Networking: Boosters are not permitted to use social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace to contact or otherwise attempt to correspond with prospects. This includes, but is not limited to, posting on a wall, using the inbox/e-mail feature, instant messaging, "@replies", "mentions", or direct messaging. Recently, NC State University sent a cease-and-desist letter to a student who had formed a Facebook group urging a prospect to come to the university. The university saw the group as a fan's attempt to recruit the prospect, thus violating NCAA rules.

As electronic communication technology continues to advance, the opportunity for the boosters of an athletics program to have impermissible contact with a prospect or that prospect's family is greatly increased. However, the school's responsibility for that contact remains the same. To protect the Cincinnati athletics program and the young people who compete for all of us, we ask that all boosters who enjoy access to the type of Web sites described above assist us in following the guidelines that govern those sites. As always, your efforts to help Cincinnati remain compliant are greatly appreciated. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at (513) 556-0558.