Let’s get this out of the way: Social media is here to stay. A recent Nielsen study shows we’re spending a quarter of our online time on social networks.
Will it change shape in the years ahead? Of course.
In society, people connect in new ways here. In business, companies reach new customers here. And in athletics, teams and athletes discover new ways to meet their fans here.
As I’ve noted previously on Fourth and 140, social media is a space ripe for opportunity – and disappointment. It needs leaders who take risks but do things the right way, with honor and authenticity. We’re seeing some professional athletes, teams and leagues exhibit leadership as social media matured in 2011. And I expect more leaders – and posers – to emerge in 2012.
Unfortunately, the NCAA remains behind the times – and continues to pass on the opportunity to make social media a safe, productive and learning place for its student-athletes and their teams.
Earlier this month, the Missoulian reported the NCAA’s plans – or lack of plans – “to pen an official policy that would punish student-athletes for the misuse of social media sites, like Twitter, anytime in the near future.”
Add this to the already growing pile of disappointing decisions and lack of action by the NCAA. The latest news came in the wake Lehigh wide receiver Ryan Spadola’s suspension for re-tweeting a message containing a racial slur.
The Missoulian’s reporting uncovered a two newsworthy items. First, the NCAA does not have the staff or budget to monitor student-athletes’ activities on Twitter, Facebook or other social sites. Second, and more importantly, the NCAA openly passes the buck on creating social media policies to its member institutions and leagues.
“Schools, institutions and conferences have their own guidelines in place for social media,” Schuh told the Missoulian. “The monitoring of social media is done on an institutional basis, on each campus. Some coaches say do whatever you want and some say don’t use it. That’s a school or a conference’s decision. They are the ones charged with overseeing those outlets.”
I’m OK with putting social media monitoring on schools. That makes sense. What’s irresponsible and a missed opportunity is failing to create guidelines and rules that govern these schools – and their athletes – in social media. I’ve argued before about the NCAA’s need for a social media policy, but it appears now the NCAA has no immediate plans to craft an official one.
The lack of leadership here is stunning, and allows the NCAA to cherry-pick schools and athletes who make very obvious and public missteps. In other words, it’s the easy way out.
What takes more work, courage and leadership would be establishing a committee of leaders – in athletics and in social media – to craft a credible set of guidelines for schools and student-athletes to follow. It would provide an ideal teaching moment for students to learn about social media.
Need a place to start, NCAA? Check out the NHL’s comprehensive social media policy. Read any of the hundreds of corporate social media policies available online. Ask your member colleges and universities or leagues. Start the conversation.
Until then, arbitrary action and lack of leadership will continue to make social media a confusing, dangerous and intimidating space for both NCAA teams and – more importantly – student-athletes.
Thanks for being a fan.