Division III Releases Social Networking Rule Change for Communicating with Prospective Student-Athletes

The Division III Management Council just released their newly adopted “noncontroversial change to the Division III electronic transmissions limitations.” They’ve given it a retroactive effective date of August 1, 2008 to match when their original legislation went into effect. They’ve also released this article: “DIII Council opens up use of social-networking media

  • Division III institutions now are free to use such media as Facebook and Twitter to publicize game results and other athletics news without worrying whether prospective student-athletes are receiving those “electronically transmitted” messages, provided the communication meets some new objective guidelines established by the Division III Management Council.”

The original bylaw said:

“Electronically transmitted correspondence that may be sent to a prospective student-athlete by, or on behalf of, a member of the institition’s athletics department staff is limited to electronic mail and facsimiles. All other forms of electronically transmitted correspondence (e.g. instant messaging, text messaging and social networking Web sites) are prohibited.”

They’ve now added to this — “except as specified in this section.”

  • “Any member of the general public may become a member of the group to which the electronic transmission is sent.”
    • In other words, no closed/gated online communities
  • “A prospective student-athlete who chooses to receive electronic transmissions through the electronic service must retain the ability to decline receipt of the communications at any time or may unsubscribe from all electronic service at any time.”
    • In other words, use common sense and always have unsubscribe options with all forms of communication.
  • “The content of any electronic transmission that is sent to a public group that may include prospective student-athletes must be the same for all members of the group (e.g. news alerts, admissions and alumni information, scores) and of a general nature.”
    • We can’t send custom content to recruits.
  • “The proposal does not allow direct person-to-person electronic communication with an individual prospective student-athlete sent by a member of the athletics department staff, or on their behalf, (e.g., instant messaging, comments via MySpace, Wall-to-Wall via Facebook, direct messaging via Twitter) except via electronic mail or facsimile. Further, the proposal ensures the communications are being sent from the athletics department or the institution, and not from the individual members of the athletics department acting on their own.”

This last paragraph is most crucial, and makes it even more important for collaborative efforts on your campus. Your athletic director likely received this communication (it was e-mailed at 9 a.m. ET this morning, July 22), but it may be a bit confusing for those that don’t have a great understanding of the various tools.  From that e-mail, they offer this example:

  • “If your coach uses Twitter or Facebook on their own for communication of athletics related information, and that information is delivered to prospective student-athletes, you will need to report that violation.”

Am I the only one thinking they’ve contradicted themselves here? On one hand they’re saying if it’s generic information and publicly available to anyone, then why would a coach disseminating that same public information in a public space be in violation?

Here is the complete PDF that was attached to the e-mail communication this morning. I’d love to hear your take on it.

  • I guess it’s mostly good. But the last bit makes it seem like if @hockeycoach is tweeting, that’s possibly a violation? I get the feeling that last bit was tacked on or remaining from some earlier version. Because the rest of it — perish the thought — actually reeks of common sense!

    Thanks for the excellent summation!

  • Concerning the apparent conflict – Does that mean that only the “school” can use these social platforms and not the individual when communicating with prospective students??

  • Kyle Johnson

    I don’t think there is a conflict at the end. Both Twitter and Facebook have private communication methods as well as public ones. So tweeting the score of a game when a perspective athlete is following you is different than direct messaging them (or maybe even @’ing them given the way Twitter filters things now). Ditto for a post on your fan page versus posting something on the prospective student’s wall (which is individual communication) or sending something to their inbox.

  • I like Kyle’s distinction. I’m wondering if the Council is making the same distinction…texting is personal, tweets public. Our TeensTalk research told us that prospective students didn’t like it when schools texted them first, before establishing a relationship with them.

    Thanks for the post, Rachel!

  • Rachel, your post awakening my thoughts here. Even though the Division III are free to use the Twitter and Facebook as the platform to publicize game results and other athletics news, however how far would you think this will bring the improvement to the players themselves?

  • It seems that while they are trying to have enough control of the communication with the prospective students in order to prevent disinformation, they are making things complicated by their own rules… I guess it’s for a good purpose and I believe that things will change in the future, when using online communities will become more and more widespread.