The North Carolina State basketball team needs all the help it can get at point guard. Finishing just 16-14 this past season, the Wolfpack suffered from the lack of a solid floor leader and went just 6-10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). So it would only make sense that they would try with all their might to sign uncommitted Raleigh native John Wall, ranked the number one recruit in the nation by numerous recruiting services. Students are even getting into the act: Freshman Taylor Moseley started a Facebook group recently called “John Wall PLEASE come to NC STATE!!!!”
However, the NCAA has said these types of sites are attempts to influence the college choice of a recruit, and therefore violate its recruiting rules. NC State’s athletic compliance director, Michelle Lee, was forced to send Moseley a cease and desist letter that warned him of “further action” if he failed to act. According to a Sports Illustrated article dated April 10, Lee said that people who act as boosters but fail to follow recruiting guidelines could face penalties such as being denied tickets or even being formally "disassociated" from the athletic program.
Adam Kissel, who directs the Individual Rights Defense Program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said that colleges are putting themselves in a tight spot by trying to enforce these rules. If the universities are punishing students in any way for expressing an opinion, they are putting themselves in danger of being accused of violating First Amendment rights.
"A student doesn't lose First Amendment rights because of a contract the university signs with (the NCAA)," he said in the Sports Illustrated article.
Lee herself even finds the rule annoying. She believes that the NCAA is just behind the times in terms of technology.
"I think nationally the NCAA needs to address further Facebook and how these groups play a part in recruiting," she was quoted as saying in the article. "Is it realistic for us to be able to monitor them? What harm is a group like this causing? But as the legislation stands right now, this is the position we have to take."
Further investigation found that the group’s name has been changed to “Bring a National Title back to NC STATE!” yet still has a picture of Wall.
NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said the group considers its rules "technology neutral,” and that Facebook is just another way to influence high school prospects, according to Sports Illustrated. The NCAA's concern is "intrusions into a high school student's life when they're trying to decide where to go to college," he said. He said the NCAA is keeping up with technology, citing the organization’s rules on coaches sending text-messages.
But a simple Facebook search reveals similar groups regarding recently committed prospect Xavier Henry and still uncommitted prospect Lance Stephenson. Other groups include, "Bring John Wall to Baylor," "John Wall Belongs at UNC" and "John Wall, come to DUKE!!" Kentucky students have started at least four similar groups aimed towards Wall.
Kissel said that the NCAA could sanction Moseley, by denying him access to an entirely NCAA-run event, for example. "We don't see it as a free speech issue,” Said Christianson in the article. “What we do see it as is a recruiting issue. We want to be sure that we limit that level of intrusion that comes into their lives."