Texas and Oklahoma, Big 12 rivals on the field, share an intriguing technology investment off it. The two schools, plus North Carolina, Villanova and Nebraska among others pay for a service provided by Varsity Monitor according to the New York Times’ Pete Thamel.
Spying, keeping tabs on and generally observing compliance issues on social media of the hundreds of college athletes roaming the respective campuses. How deep Varsity Monitor digs is up to the respective athletic departments as the business states on their website:
We monitor for actions that could endanger their future career and sponsorship opportunities as well as damage the brand of their team, league & institution.
Important to Know: Our service does NOT collect or request passwords.
Important to Know also: They leave the collecting or requesting to universities and coaching staffs.
Social media’s explosion has created a litany of constitutional and privacy questions that eventually, when they’re done with the President’s health care bill, the Supreme Court will need to address.
Days ago, a House measure was voted down that would have allowed the Federal Communications Commission to bar employers from requesting prospective or current employees’ Facebook passwords.
The practice of monitoring Twitter and Facebook at college campuses is more dire now than a few years ago. That’s because the bowl ban headed North Carolina’s way in 2012 — and the included loss of revenues, scholarship athletes and perhaps booster donations — was born in social media.
On March 12, North Carolina’s football program received a one-year bowl ban and lost 15 scholarships after an N.C.A.A. investigation that was spurred by a Twitter message sent by a player.
Plenty of college students keep their Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds public. It’s what their friends do so it makes sense to them. But these students are engaging in a dangerous dance by letting the free world into their every 18-22 year-old thought.
Schools, like Texas and Oklahoma, profit handsomely from ticket sales and television contracts by using a product (college athletes) they provide a scholarship for but negate a salary. Whatever your stance on those monetary benefits, requesting private information is a different and frankly, scary animal.
Thamel notes that some campuses stick to public compliance observation, a notion that’s fine until the school choosing not to delve deeper receives NCAA sanctions and the bottom line takes a hit.
So how far is too far?
It’s easy for an university administrator to shout the perils of student privacy. It’s much more difficult to explain to your boss why a redshirt freshman tweeted he’s $500 richer and the NCAA is snooping around the football program because of it.
As college football specifically and college athletics in general becomes a larger business venture for many of the high-profile campuses, ideally these university executives make decisions in the best interests of the student athletes.
But when the time comes for that call, can we honestly believe an athletic director will choose the basic tenets of privacy over a multi-million dollar loss?