Social media muddies college athletic world
Going Long with Geisler
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 22:10
The rapid rise of the Internet has created a multitude of problems for those in charge in almost every sector of life.
Social media specifically has made it difficult to keep people’s feelings and actions private. This creates a serious conundrum for bosses, coaches and all authority figures.
What matters more: a person’s right to speak, or the reputation of your brand?
On college campuses across the country, this problem comes to a head with student athlete populations and their use of social media sites.
A major unanswered question exists in the wild west of social media and college athletics: can a coach or athletic department force players to have their Twitter and Facebook accounts monitored?
And what is more important: the rights of the student athletes, or protecting the university and the athletic department’s reputation?
For now, the NCAA seems to have answered yes to monitoring and preserving the school’s reputation, but the water is still muddied, and different universities ascribe to different policies based on their athletic administrators.
The above questions are particularly important ones to ask at a public institution like Miami University, which due to public funding, is forced to follow the First Amendment more closely than a private institution.
Miami currently has no overarching social media policy; the university simply leaves it up to the coaches — and some are stricter on it than others.
Some firm proponents of the First Amendment would say any restriction is unconstitutional; some opponents of student athletes’ rights would argue that since the athlete is privileged to play sports at this high level, they should acquiesce their rights to the proverbial man based on this.
The perfect answer, as it often does, likely lies somewhere in the middle. While administrators and coaches cannot legally force a player to give them access to their Twitter and Facebook feeds at a public university, it should certainly be encouraged, because it is almost always better to be cautious (or safe than sorry like your mother told you).
And the emphasis should be on education, not on catching players in some illicit act then busting them.
Though these big questions are for the big shots at the university to answer, the problem I’d like to illuminate lies in the inconsistent policy.
Allowing the policy to remain on a coach-by-coach basis this way will simply compound the problem; it muddies the water further in what I’ve already described as very muddy field.
No matter what it is, Miami needs a consistent student athlete social media policy, mostly to avoid legal controversy and give its athletes a level of certainty.
Yes, the web can be a big confusing mess, but consistent policies help mightily, and it is time for Miami to get ahead of the curve and lead on this issue.