Division I Athletics Departments’ Social Media Policies

It seems like almost weekly that a story arises about a coach banning players’ use of social media websites or about student-athletes making controversial remarks on websites like Twitter.  Given the commonality of these stories in this social media age, BusinessofCollegeSports.com reached out to numerous Division I athletics departments to learn what type of social media policies their departments have adopted.  The following demonstrates how some of the top athletic departments in the nation are allowing their student-athletes to utilize social media.

School

Athletics Department Allows Use of Social Media

Teams Restricting Social Media Use

Insider’s Notes

Arizona

Yes

None.

Arizona’s Director of Athletics Greg Byrne said, “Student-athletes must register their accounts with our compliance department.  We talk with them regularly about what they post.”

Boise State

Yes

Football student-athletes are not allowed to use Twitter and are told to make their Facebook accounts private. Boise State’s Assistant Athletic Director of Media Relations Max Corbet said, “There is not a department policy.  It is pretty much left up to each individual head coach.”

Florida State

Yes

None.

FSU’s Assistant Athletic Director/Sports Information Director Elliott Finebloom said, “We try to educate [student-athletes] on the positives and negatives of engaging in various social media platforms.

Georgia

Yes

None.

Georgia’s Assistant Sports Communication Director Kate Burkholder said, “Our feeling on this is that we make it as clear as possible that they are accountable for what they share, and they shouldn’t make any comments they wouldn’t make if they were getting interviewed on SportsCenter.  This year our media training team (outside company) incorporated a lot of social media etiquette into their lesson.  Every team goes through this training regardless of the level of exposure the team receives.  Any further policies are left up to the coaches, but generally speaking, our policy is to educate and monitor rather than to ban.

Houston

Yes

None.

Kansas

Yes

While individual coaches are allowed to determine whether their student-athletes can use social media, none have prevented their student-athletes from using social media. Kansas’ Associate Athletics Director for Communications and Media Relations Jim Marchiony said, “Kansas Athletics has a general student-athlete policy regarding how individuals are expected to present the university. . . Student-athletes’ use of social media falls under our general student-athlete conduct policies.”

North Carolina

While the athletics department adopted a “Use of Social Networking Policy” last year, it encourages the use of social media by its student-athletes. In 2010, football coach Butch Davis banned the use of Twitter when UNC was under NCAA investigation.  However, new football coach Larry Fedora is not banning the use of Twitter.As of two weeks ago, women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell banned the use of Twitter so that her team can focus on basketball. UNC’s Associate Athletic Director for Communications said, “We have a policy that was put into place last year, the Use of Social Networking Policy.  There are guidelines and a monitoring component.  Each sport has a designated coach or administrator who monitors social media.  Each student-athlete who wishes to participate in social media, which we encourage, has to accept the monitor as a friend on Facebook, or the monitor must follow them on Twitter.

Ohio State

Yes

Each sport sets its own social media guidelines. Ohio States’ Associate Athletics Director for Communications Dan Wallenberg said, “Our student-athletes are not restricted from using social media, however each team has the discretion to establish rules and penalties as they see fit.”

Oklahoma

Yes

None.

Oklahoma’s Assistant Director for Communications said, “We allow our student-athletes to participate in social media.  Our coaches do not have a ban on them.”

Oklahoma State

Each sport sets its own social media guidelines. One Oklahoma State coach (unidentified by the university) doesn’t allow student-athletes to use social media. Oklahoma State’s Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations Kevin Klintworth said, “Our policies vary between programs.  We have one coach that doesn’t allow social media at all.  Most of them do as long as coaches are “friends” or “followers.”

South Carolina

Yes

Certain teams restrict student-athletes’ use of social media.  Last season, Coach Spurrier didn’t allow the football team to use Twitter during the season so they could focus on football.  Players were allowed to resume use after the season. South Carolina’s Media Relations Director Steve Fink said, “We aim to educate [student-athletes] with guidelines and tips for using these sites wisely.”

TCU

Yes

None.

TCU’s Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations Mark Cohen said, “TCU student-athletes are permitted to use Facebook and Twitter.  Each sport at TCU sets its own social media guidelines.  No sports at TCU have banned the use of Facebook or Twitter.”

USC

Yes

None.

USC’s Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone said, “We work hard to educate [student-athletes and coaches] on the proper use of social media.”

Wisconsin

Yes

Each sport sets its own social media guidelines.  However, no coach has banned the use of social media by student-athletes. Wisconsin’s Director of Athletic Communications Brian Lucas said, “I know that Coach Bielema [football] deals with his players on a case-by-case basis.  If he has an issue with something a student-athlete has posted, he deals with the student-athlete one-on-one as opposed to imposing limitations on the team.

5 thoughts on “Division I Athletics Departments’ Social Media Policies”

  1. It seems to me after reading these statistics that most Division 1 Universities and coaches are not against the use of social media. The only team that banned twitter outright is Boise State Football, the other bans were only in-season.

    While I do not think it is wrong for any coach to ban social media, I do think that players deserve their freedom. I also think that a coach should have the right to regulate and ban his team’s social media use as he chooses.

    It will be interesting to see how these policies change (if at all) throughout the next few years.

  2. Seems we have a 1st Amendment issue here. What right does a coach have to deny access to the means to express themselves? They have the right to sanction players for what they tweet, but to not tweet at all? Wonder what the ACLU has to say about this?

  3. Great info.

    Banning it is not the answer. It solves nothing.

    Education is the key. Educating them on the risks, on how to use it well, on how using it in a positive way benefits them in the short and long term. Too many educate by telling players what not to do. Nobody learns that way.

    A post I wrote earlier on the topic of policies and education: http://www.fieldhousemedia.net/for-student-athletes-and-social-media-you-cant-legislate-integrity/

  4. Jeff, you bring up some great points. Denying a student-athlete access to social media as an outlet to express their thoughts, as opposed to sanctioning what they tweet, will likely be considered a prior restraint (legalese, sorry) which bears a presumption against constitutionality. With that being said, most (if not all) student-athletes enter into a contractual relationship with the university when they sign their financial aid agreements and related documents, and some of these agreements may provide that the student-athlete waives this particular right to use social media.

    As far as the ACLU is concerned, they certainly have their eyes on this. Kent State banned their student-athletes from using social media in 2006, but quickly rescinded the ban after receiving a letter from the ACLU threatening first amendment litigation.

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