Clemson determined on Friday that it was not guilty of an NCAA secondary violation after an NFL player directed a series of Twitter messages to the nation’s No. 1-ranked high school prospect this week earlier this week.
The NFL player was De’Quan Bowers, the former Clemson All-America defensive tackle who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bowers directed three tweets on Monday to Grayson High School defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who is verbally committed to Clemson.
The tweets from Bowers raised concerns, particularly among fans of colleges that are competing against Clemson for Nkemdiche, that the NFL player may be illegally recruiting for the Tigers over Social Media.
On Friday, Clemson spokesman Tim Bourret told the AJC in an email, “After reviewing the matter it has been determined that no violation has occurred” and that it was “case closed.”
When asked about the Clemson’s policy on former players contacting prospective-student athletes over Social Media, Bourret said, “Boosters are not to contact prospects, unless there is a pre-existing relationship … Clemson does not encourage the practice or arrange for former student-athletes OR boosters to contact prospective student-athletes.”
It’s against NCAA rules for a booster to recruit prospects over Facebook and Twitter, even though it happens dozens a time per day across the country (Even a fan of a college, with no other connections to the school, could be defined as a booster under the broad terminology in NCAA Bylaw 13.02.14). It’s an NCAA secondary violation that is rarely enforced because of the sheer magnitude and rapid growth of Social Media.
Bowers isn’t the first person who could be considered a booster to tweet at Nkemdiche and he won’t be the last. But the reason that Bowers’ messages stood out more others is because of his popularity as a former Clemson star and NFL player. Some supporters of opposing college teams expressed anger on message boards, feeling like Bowers provided Clemson with a recruiting advantage by giving a high school player public acknowledgement or a “shout out” among his 72,000+ Twitter followers.
On Friday, Clemson also said it reached the conclusion that “no violation occurred because Daquan was not directed by anyone on our staff and he has not triggered booster status.”
When the AJC asked the NCAA for a clarification on Bowers’ tweets, a spokesman issued the following statement, along with recommending contacting Clemson’s compliance office for feedback:
When it comes to the use of social media, the NCAA rules in place govern what is permissible during the recruiting process. The rules state the only permissible forms of electronic communication for recruiting are e-mail and faxes. Due to the nature of the direct one-to-one private communication that can be used through social networking sites, this type of communication is viewed as a form of e-mail and therefore permissible.
All other electronically transmitted correspondence including, but not limited to, Instant Messenger, chat rooms or message boards [e.g., a user’s wall] within a social networking Web site or through other services or applications remain impermissible.
The monitoring, regulating and expectations of social media sites used by student-athletes on college campuses are done on a campus level, although at times it can also serve as an information resource for NCAA enforcement staff investigators. If a school receives information about a potential violation and it is reasonable to believe social networking information would be helpful, they should monitor this information.
Institutions need to ensure their personnel, student-athletes and individuals affiliated with the institution are following the NCAA guidelines in place. If violations are discovered via social media, it is the institution’s responsibility to report those violations and educate the individuals on how their actions could possibly affect the school and the eligibility of themselves/student-athletes. Failure to do so could result in more severe circumstances if not addressed.
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– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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