Role Conflict of Athletic Administrators in Monitoring Social Networks

Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Exhibit Hall RC Poster Sessions (Tampa Convention Center)
Frank B. Butts, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA

The social networks used by the majority of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes, Facebook or MySpace, have come under intense scrutiny from college administrators in general, and the NCAA in particular in recent months. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the current level of monitoring of these social network sites by athletic administrators and the attitudes of athletes related to monitoring.


To specifically study potential conflicts among athletes, administrators, and the three NCAA classifications, this study used the findings from a survey of 522 college athletes representing NCAA I, II, and III schools during 2007. Surveys were administered by professors, athletic trainers, or coaches at their respective universities. Findings were analyzed using the Kruskal-Wallis test.


The literature indicated a range of monitoring from mere advisories to a complete ban on the use of any social networks. Attitudes toward the degree of monitoring necessary and image projected were examined and contrasted based on subject's role in athletics, gender, and NCAA classification. A review of current literature found no legal challenges, related to violation of the First Amendment rights of athletes, which ruled against administrators monitoring of social networks. However, the climate is tenuous and the NCAA is in a state of discussion as to what position to take on social networks to avoid legal and policy violation issues. Presently, the NCAA only monitors the development of social networks and use of these internet sources by athletes. Significant differences were found in responses based on gender on every issue or concern. Females projected better images and had a higher acceptance of athletic department monitoring than their male counterparts. Among the various NCAA classifications, significant differences were found in both the self-reported image projected on social network cites and the degree of monitoring. NCAA II athletes projected a less desired image and a lesser degree of administrative monitoring than the other divisions.


There are obvious benefits to using social networks for communication and recruiting. However, there are numerous examples of inappropriate use, ranging from NCAA violations related to booster involvement in recruiting to online association with gamblers. With the explosion of social networks as the communication tool for student-athletes, it is paramount that universities and the NCAA formulate policies that ensure Constitutional compatibility, NCAA compliance, and reduce potential conflict between athletes, NCAA policy, courts, and administrators.

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