It's official. Facebook has become a worldwide phenomena.
Almost every company nowadays has a Facebook page in an attempt to reach more people and better inform their current customers. ESPN’s Gameday has one, and there are multiple NCAA Football pages, none of which have been confirmed by the NCAA.
The popularity is unrivaled at the time for social networking, but is it really a good thing for college football? Players can voice their opinion to the world without being in a press conference now, all while using their smart phones and sitting in class.
Some coaches have tried to restrict access to Facebook by mandating it as part of the generic “team rules” policy. Many players fought this ruling, saying it was a violation of Free Speech. Since then, many coaches have avoided the topic all together publicly.
Almost every college program has a policy pertaining to Facebook. Although those policies usually are not made available to the public, they basically boil down to not embarrassing the university, coaches, other players, or talking about opponents period.
Those seem like very reasonable guidelines to follow when getting a free education; unfortunately some players do not realize the great situation they are in. Jamere Holland and Buck Burnette are perfect examples of how free reign on Facebook can spell trouble for college football players and the programs they play for.
Both Holland and Burnette have been kick off their respective teams for comments made on Facebook. Jamere Holland was a former receiver for Oregon and Buck Burnett was a center for the Texas Longhorns.
“Chilln thinking of another status to %$@! with the readers heads, I wish I could block whites as friends and only have blacks LOL, cause apparently I'm misunderstood” quoted Holland on his Facebook this spring. This was just one event in a long chain of disruptions the Oregon receiver had caused for his team, but this time it was his last. He was kicked off the team shortly after he posted this.
Buck Burnette also chose the racial route on his Facebook page shortly after the Obama election. “"All the hunters gather up, we have a #$%&er in the whitehouse", Burnette posted after the results came in. Mack Brown was quickly notified of this post and he removed Burnette from the team.
The players fail to realize or care that the assistant coaches frequently check in on the players Facebook pages to ensure no infractions have been made. In both cases, the players were removed from the team within hours of these posts.
It is not only the players and coaches that have to worry about comments posted on Facebook. The NCAA has become very interested in Facebook when recruits are mentioned before they have committed to a certain team.
The NCAA informed NC State that they needed to take action against a student who had created a Facebook page encouraging top basketball prospect, John Wall, to commit to the Wolfpack. The NCAA says that creating Facebook pages and groups during recruiting season is out of bounds and a violation of recruiting rules. The NCAA believes that when fans create and post pages, they are acting as boosters in an attempt to influence the choice of a recruit.
NC State had the student change the name of the page so that it fell into line with NCAA guidelines. “We don't see it as a free-speech issue. What we do see it as is a recruiting issue, we want to be sure that we limit that level of intrusion that comes into their lives,” quoted NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson.
A quick search on Facebook will yield many of the same types of pages directed at encouraging a top recruit to go to one school or another. I found a page on similar guidelines called “Bring Terrelle Pryor, The #1 QB in the Country to The Ohio State University”. To date Ohio State has not had any dealing with the NCAA on the issue.
The question quickly arises as to how the NCAA, colleges, and coaches enforce student or fan interaction like this on the Internet. Did any of those three entities encourage fans to create such a page? Doubtful, but they are getting punished for it either way.
The issues with Facebook and college football are not easily solved. The social networking site can be a great forum to advertise pep rallies, fan appreciation days, and game times, but it can also have a darker side.
As Facebook becomes more popular these incidents will continue to come up, but how they will be handled still has no uniform direction from the NCAA. This is something the NCAA needs to address sooner rather than later.