Click Don’t Type

ncaa-click-dont-typeOn August 1, 2016, the NCAA Executive Committee initiated some new rules governing the degree of social media interaction between players and recruits.

It’s known as NCAA Proposal 2015-48.



Title:  Athletics Personnel and Recruiting — Endorsements and Publicity — Actions on social media platforms

Intent:  To establish an exception to the restrictions on publicity before commitment that permits actions (e.g., like, favorite, republish, etc.) by an institutional staff member on social media platforms that indicate approval of content on social media platforms that was generated by users of the platforms other than institutional staff members or representatives of an institution’s athletic interests.

In layman’s terms, here’s what this is really about.

Ever since the inception of college football, there has been a “seedy underworld.”  One where coaches, athletic departments and wealthy alumni have tried to curry favor with prospective high school recruits.  The goal being to lure them into signing on with their respective university.  In some cases, it went far beyond purchasing them dinner and drinks.  There have been instances where high school kids were directly given cash, jewelry, iphones… even prostitutes, brand new cars and luxury apartments.

Make no mistake about it.  NCAA football is big business.  With a winning record comes bigger television contracts, brand new stadiums, prestigious bowl games and national championships.  In a word, it’s about money.  No surprise there.

I think we can agree on one thing.  High school kids these days appear emotionally and physically tethered to their cell phones.  They call, they text, they tweet, they post, and so on.

With the prevalence of social media platforms and non-stop flood of electronic information, this presents a real-world, “cyber-conundrum.”  After all, there’s facebook, twitter, snapchat, instagram, pinterest, vine, just to name a few.

The world of social media offers up an unusual predicament.  Coaches should be allowed to persuade kids and sell them on their university… but not go overboard.  Coaches are allowed to get involved… but not too involved.

To help rectify the dilemma, the NCAA Executive Committee devised a straightforward “Click Don’t Type” rule for dealing with social media and recruits.  The NCAA even devised a nifty hash tag campaign, #ClickDontType.  It allows coaches to regurgitate volumes of information at-will.  Kind of like automatic boastful mini-endorsements.

The absurdity here is almost too obvious.  A coach is allowed to befriend or follow a prospective student athlete.  They can private message them.  They can “like” or “favorite” one of their posts.  They can even share or re-tweet it.   But if they comment on a post or about a post, that would be a violation.  And if they “tag” or mention an athlete in a post, that’s also a violation.

Now most coaches are pretty busy.  Hey, it’s a high stress lifestyle.  Whether it be hammering out game plans or schmoozing alumni donors or attending cocktail receptions with the university president.  Let’s just say it’s a time-consuming, multifaceted job.  I would speculate that most head coaches simply do not have the time, desire or patience to constantly monitor and react to the thousands of comments on social media feeds.  Therefore, they’d likely delegate the task to a subordinate.

Rather than spending an entire day following posts on social media, some of these underlings might employ spam bots which get the task done in the most efficient way.  “Bot” is slang for internet robot.  It’s a software application that systematically performs repetitive tasks, such as liking, sharing or retweeting.

So here’s where this could present a problem from the outlook of stadium security.  These NCAA venues, some of which exceed 100,000 in capacity, are increasingly wirelessly hyper-connective environments.  Lots of cellular information being transmitted and received.

Now the overwhelming majority of fans and students who attend these games bring their cell phones into the stadiums.  This leaves them acutely vulnerable to receiving false information.  If an undisciplined high school recruit wanted to pull off a social media prank, it could have dire ramifications.

Imagine the possibility of information like this being “accidentally” re-posted by a head coach or university president .

*** Domestic Terrorism Alert ***

The United States Department of Homeland Security has issued emergency evacuations for the following NCAA Division I football stadiums:  Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH and Beaver Stadium, State College, PA.

Exit immediately. Remain calm.  Updates forthcoming.

Do you see how a hoax like this could potentially spiral out of control?  Virtually everyone has an active cell phone.  What about the coaching staff?  What about stadium employees?  What about teachers and faculty?  What about members of the administration?  What about fans, reporters and local celebrities?

Social media is capable of instantly disseminating information.  And it might not be the harmless banter, that we as a society, have grown accustomed to.  Everything is fine and dandy until someone tests the cracks in the system.

So what’s the solution?  Well, there is no perfect answer.  Why?  Because the weaponizing of a human stampede is currently an “undiscussable” national security issue.  Currently, there is zero commitment to addressing this hypothetical cyber-threat.  Politicians won’t acknowledge it.   Government agencies won’t touch it.  The sports and entertainment world won’t go anywhere near it.

Ultimately, it’s an “X” scenario that requires a deeper compression and understanding, as well as the allocation of situational awareness.  In order to prevent a disaster, sometimes it’s necessary to make people aware of the possibility of the disaster itself.  It’s called a paradox.

If you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  And if it were to happen, you’re totally screwed… because you didn’t do enough to prevent it.  This is an indefatigable catch-22.  And guess what?  It ain’t goin’ away.

Meanwhile, the college football season is underway as the NCAA pushes its commitment to integrity, sportsmanship, inclusion, respect, leadership and the pursuit of excellence.  Yeah, that sounds about right!

While most fans are worried about their favorite receiver making a leaping catch in the end zone, I’m still worried about the catch-22 and the ultimate end game.   Stay tuned and we’ll see how it all pans out.

Feel free to share this article on any social media platform.  #ClickDontType