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Explaining SnapChat in Recruiting

Two days ago the NCAA published an Educational Column on social media in recruiting. The most fascinating part was the NCAA’s Q&A regarding how coaches could mention high schools and coaches of prospective student-athletes on Twitter. But most attention was paid to the mention of a specific company:

In basketball and men’s ice hockey, any type of electronically transmitted correspondence (e.g., e-mail, facsimile, instant message, text message, SnapChat, etc.)…

I thought it was curious that the NCAA mentioned one specific platform as opposed to other more commonly used in recruiting like Facebook messages or Twitter direct messaging. But that offhanded observation grew into this:

Beginning in August, the NCAA will allow coaches to use SnapChat with recruits.

And this:

I really don’t have a clue as to how a coach would use SnapChat to help recruit a player. They’d have to get creative, but I’m having trouble thinking of a way to use it that a picture message or a Facebook message wouldn’t already cover.

The NCAA did not allow SnapChat starting yesterday or starting August 1. SnapChat has been permissible in men’s basketball since June 15, 2012, when parts of Proposal 2011–99 became effective, deregulating the forms of electronic communication men’s basketball coaches could use to contact juniors and seniors in high school. Women’s basketball was added August 1, 2013, when Proposal 2013–1 became effective. 2013–25-A added men’s ice hockey on January 18, 2014. Sports other than football, track and field, and swimming and diving will round out the sports that can use SnapChat on August 1, 2014 when 2013–26 becomes effective.

The reason for all these odd dates is that the NCAA does not regulate individual social media platforms. Here is a longer version of the first quote above with some important parts emphasized:

In basketball and men’s ice hockey, any type of electronically transmitted correspondence (e.g., e-mail, facsimile, instant message, text message, SnapChat, etc.) may be sent to a prospective-student athlete, provided the correspondence is sent directly to the prospective student-athlete (or his or her parents or legal guardians) and is private between the sender and recipient.

The NCAA has been moving to this general principle to regulate electronic correspondence since Proposal 2011–37 was proposed. That proposal was tabled with the start of the Presidential Retreat reform efforts but the concept lived on for men’s basketball, then has added sports until 2013–26 makes it the general rule with a few (admittedly major) exceptions on August 1. On August 1st, there will be two categories of sports: those that can only use email (and email-like services) and those that can use any service that is private and is sent directly to the prospect, even a brand new service that launches August 2.

That is not to say the NCAA mentioning SnapChap does nothing. By singling out the service, coaches will feel more comfortable using it. As far as what they will use it for, they will use it for the same thing they use texting, Facebook, or Twitter in recruiting: to contact recruits. As a general rule, coaches are not really looking to innovate in recruiting. Most have a style and system of recruiting that works for them. As technology changes, they simply move that method to where the recruits are, with as few changes as necessary.

As far as policing the content of SnapChat messages, that ship has sailed. Getting at the content of a text message is already hard enough once it is deleted. SnapChat messages take only marginally less effort to conceal than messages sent through WhatsApp or Line. If someone is using a private messaging service for nefarious purposes, at some point that has to leave the world of mobile apps. Money has to be exchanged, a paper has to be written, a grade changed, etc. At that point it becomes more likely, even if not necessarily easy or certain, that the NCAA can catch it.

If the easiest way to get in touch with a recruit is through SnapChat, coaches will use SnapChat. If recruits move on to another service in large enough numbers, coaches will start using that. Starting August 1, the NCAA should be out of the business of answering whether each new service that pops up is permissible, for most sports at least.

Are you ready for the NEXT STEP!