Text messaging ban just
NCAA had to do something to protect recruits' privacy
Posted: Thursday September 20, 2007 3:45PM; Updated: Friday September 21, 2007 12:56PM
So here we are, with almost two months elapsed since college coaches were banned from sending text messages to high school athletes, and as far as I can tell, the world of recruiting has not come crashing down. The folks who argued against the ban wanted us to believe they could not conduct their business without a communications tool that didn't even exist until a few years ago -- not surprisingly, those concerns have proven to be unfounded.
It was pretty easy to slam the NCAA last April, when it supposedly unleashed another one of its silly, fuddy-duddy rules which only hurt the athletes the NCAA was trying to help. But the fact is the people who argued hardest for the ban, which went into effect on Aug. 1, were the student-athletes themselves. And the people who complained most about it (i.e., coaches) were the ones whose over-the-top behavior made the rule necessary to begin with.
This, alas, is how things work. Coaches find an area that's unregulated by the NCAA, they abuse it and so the NCAA has to figure out a way to regulate it. In this case, the NCAA did what the athletes wanted. "It's intruding on [student-athletes'] lives and creating inappropriate relationships with coaches," Anna Chappell, the chair of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, argued before the NCAA's management council in April. "If you don't stop it now, what roads are you going to have to cross later on?"
That sentiment was echoed in a poll conducted by SI.com last month in which one starter from each of the 119 Division I football teams was asked if he favored the ban. The results: 53.8 percent said yes, 41.2 percent said no and 5.0 percent chose "other."
Chappell didn't reach her position by herself, either. She was speaking on behalf of her committee, which includes 31 members, one for each Division I conference. Each of those people -- all of whom are former student-athletes who recently graduated -- are assigned to meet with separate committees from their leagues as well as with student-athletes on their own campuses. After surveying their peers, they were nearly unanimous in their desire to see a severe limitation, if not an all-out ban, on text messaging.
Why? Cost, for one thing. Unless kids sign up for unlimited texting plans (which are more expensive than limited ones), they have to pay for each text that goes over the limit. One of the more extreme examples was reported last April by my colleague Luke Winn, who revealed Patrick Patterson, a high school forward who eventually signed with Kentucky, racked up a $507 cell phone bill in the month of March alone because of excessive texting. (His mother told Luke Patrick had received nearly 7,000 messages that month.)
You can argue Patterson brought that on himself by waiting until the end of the spring signing period to announce his decision, but shouldn't a kid have that right without having to pay an exorbitant phone bill?
And lest you think this is a problem experienced only by a few elite football and basketball players, I can assure you it is much more widespread. Volleyball, soccer and lacrosse coaches need to win to keep their jobs just like football and basketball coaches do, so they work just as hard to find whatever edge they can in recruiting. The fact that the proposal was initially taken up by the Ivy League should tell you that it applies to more than just a few big-time athletes.
Another concern voiced by the athletes surrounds the inconvenience of being bombarded with text messages. "We talked to student-athletes who said they received them during class in school. Some would have 15 to 20 messages when they woke up in the morning," said Kerry Kenny, a former basketball player at Lafayette who sits on the Division I SAAC. "The complaints we heard were across the board, not just in basketball and football, which is what the media's focus has been."