Being Social: Why the NCAA Has Forced Universities to Monitor Student-Athletes' Social Media

Jamie P. Hopkins, Katie Hopkins, Bijan Whelton


On June 21, 2011, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) charged the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) with a number of NCAA legislation violations, including “not adequately and consistently monitor[ing] social networking activity that visibly illustrated potential amateurism violations within the football program[.]” While the NCAA’s bylaws regarding member institution conduct indirectly impacts social media oversight, the NCAA’s lack of a social media monitoring policy creates uncertainty as to how member institutions should deal with potential violations of a non-existing policy. Coupled with concerns about their public image, tort liability, and their student-athletes’ safety, NCAA member institutions must develop a social media monitoring policy that does not infringe on constitutional free speech rights or more specific social media privacy laws. Ultimately, monitoring publicly available social media might be the safest and the best way to protect the institutions’ interests without violating their student-athletes’ legal rights.

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