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IOWA CITY — Recruiting’s rapidly changing confluence with social media and telephone communication has led to near-annual NCAA changes and occasional slip-ups at every institution.
Coaches were prohibited from text messaging prospects in 2007. That ban was overturned this spring with coaches graced with unlimited texting privileges to junior prospects. On Aug. 1, coaches were allowed to “like” or “retweet” a prospect’s Twitter post but cannot respond to their tweets. Phone calls remain subjected to the calendar, as do other forms of communication, including in-person.
Those changes force coaches and compliance staffers to navigate a challenging and confusing stream of recruiting rules that range from stringent to loose to ambiguous.
“You get something in your email or on your desk, ‘Now you can do this, now you can’t do this,’” said Iowa running backs coach Chris White, who recruits New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. “We need our compliance with us all the time telling us what’s legal and what’s not.”
Telephone and electronic-related incidents accounted for 32 of the 66 NCAA violations reported by the state’s three public university athletics departments to the Board of Regents last year. None of the violations, which were obtained by The Gazette, were deemed serious by the NCAA.
Of Iowa’s 26 violations, 13 were related to electronics or phone issues. Iowa State committed 33 violations with 17 related to electronics or improper phone usage. Northern Iowa had seven total violations, and two were connected to electronics or phones.
Iowa State’s football program under new Coach Matt Campbell committed 13 minor NCAA violations from Jan. 1, 2016 through April 21, 2016. Seven of the violations involved improper phone usage and two others were electronic-related issues. Four phone calls from the director of operations were made to prospects he believed were committed recruits. A new logging system led to duplicate phone calls to a prospect. A graduate assistant mistakenly called a junior instead of a senior. The director of operations accidentally called a prospect instead of an high school coach.
The two electronic infractions involved texting a response to a 2017 prospect about practice times. Another involved a photo taken of a prospect for use if he signed his letter of intent. The photo was sent to the prospect, who shared it on social media before signing day.
Through an athletics department spokesman, Iowa State declined to comment about the infractions.
Iowa football had five violations, and four were related to social media. Two involved impermissible text messages sent to 2016 prospects. The new rules change relaxing text messaging would have erased that transgression. Other violations include displays showing prospects’ names and likeness in the football building during unofficial visit, and a booster writing a message to a prospect on social media.
Northern Iowa football had one electronic/phone violation when two assistants called the same prospect twice in one week.
At the three institutions, 16 other programs committed minor infractions involving electronics or phone calls. Outside of football, only one program (ISU women’s volleyball with two) had more than one electronic or phone violation.
None of the football penalties were serious. Two-week recruiting benchings were the norm, and the NCAA accepted the internal findings.
“I’m guessing that’s not going to be a huge deal if it’s an ‘oops’ deal because I really believe they (the NCAA) don’t want to get their hands involved,” White said. “It’s too hard from them to legislate, in my opinion. But people are going to try to take advantage of it somehow.”
Even with looser social media guidelines, Iowa football coaches still prefer handwritten notes and phone calls in recruiting.
“I’m not one to be twiddling my thumbs up and down Twitter trying to find something to like or someone to retweet,” said Iowa assistant coach and recruiting director Kelvin Bell.
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