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It's not uncommon these days to see fans of college sports teams go on Twitter, or even Facebook, and follow and message potential recruits. Sometimes it's a congratulatory message about a big performance in a game. Sometimes it's a tweet encouraging the high schooler or junior college athlete to choose a given school.
Thursday, BYU became the latest on a growing list of schools to offer a warning to its fan base not to engage in those activities, saying fans could potentially be considered by the NCAA to be "boosters" making improper recruiting pitches.
The compliance office Twitter account (@BYUcompliance) posted this message: "Boosters/Fans: Please do not use @"insert prospect twitter handle" to encourage enrollment at BYU. Leave the recruiting to the coaches!"
BYU director of compliance, Chad Gwilliam, described the trending behavior as "problematic," "difficult" to stay on top of, and something that is a growing concern to schools across the country.
"This is one of the NCAA rules and issues — that recruiting is something that has to be done by the BYU full-time coaches," Gwilliam told KSL. "If they're reaching out via Twitter or Facebook or other social media, they could be considered a booster just by reaching out and encouraging a prospective student to enroll at a prospective school."
Gwilliam said the warning was not motivated by any particular tweet or social media message, but was spurred on by several other schools across the country taking the same action.
Even some schools' fan sites have taken to proactively warning against the practice. A quick search of the Internet uncovered a post from the publisher of Hawkeyenation.com, a website dedicated to covering University of Iowa athletics
"Just another reminder to not seek out possible Iowa recruits via social media for the sake of sending them messages encouraging them to consider Iowa," website founder Jon Miller scribed last year. "Most people are not that 'direct', rather they'll send messages or tweets about good things about a school, or a program, subtle things. It's dangerous territory, and likely against the rules."
Though the term "booster" generally brings to mind a supporter of a school with deep pockets, Gwilliam said the NCAA definition describes a booster as a "representative of athletics interest."
"Depending on where you go with that it very easily could turn into a bigger problem," Gwilliam said.
Gwilliam said if fans know of prospective recruits who deserve attention, notify the athletic department.
"Hey, don't hurt the school," Gwilliam said. "Be on the message boards, talk about the sports, tweet about BYU, but when it comes to the actual recruits don't go and start recruiting them."
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