New interpretation from the NCAA regarding when coaches may follow or friend student-athletes on social networking services:
The academic and membership affairs staff determined that an institutional staff member is permitted to initiate or accept a “friend” or “follow” request to a prospective student-athlete (or his or her parents or legal guardians) through a social networking site at any time, including prior to the first permissible date to send electronic correspondence, even if the social networking website sends an automatically-generated electronic notification (e.g., email, text message, push notification), provided the staff member does not modify the automatically-generated electronic notification and no additional communication is included.
Previously coaches were advised not to friend or follow prospects prior to the first permissible date for electronic correspondence. The automatically generated emails, texts, or other messages were treated like regular correspondence, which normally could not be sent prior to September 1 of a prospect’s junior year in high school (in most sports). That meant coaches could not follow or friend a prospect prior to that date.
While the new rule loosens things up a bit, it may end up causing its own set of violations. While coaches can connect with prospects on social media at any time, communicating with them is still prohibited prior to September 1. Some coaches might also run afoul of the restriction prohibiting them from editing an automatically generated email.