A pair of tweets from Texas A&M compliance director Brad Barnes raised a lot of eyebrows in the recruiting world on Wednesday morning.
I reached out to Barnes for clarification, who said that the SEC inquired to the NCAA on the quote-unquote legality of thinly-veiled subtweets at specific recruits. The NCAA responded to the NCAA that according to Bylaw 126.96.36.199, which limits coaches' public comments on recruits to a simple conformation or denial that his program is recruiting a specific player, subtweeting players with specific, individual details is not allowed.
The example the NCAA used with the SEC, Barnes said, was that of a hypothetical player named Johnny North, a linebacker from Morgantown, N.D., who wears the number 55 and carries the nickname "The Beast." In that instance, tweets such as:
"Headed North to see a Beast!"
"We have a BEAST on campus today!"
"No. 55 hits like a BEAST!"
are not allowed. However, a tweet such as this is allowed, since, in theory, Oklahoma could be recruiting dozens of players from the Fort Worth area:
"Coaches push the envelope in recruiting, and that's okay," Barnes said. "People were saying we need to get this sorted out. Member institutions do not want to see a competition to see who can show the most love publicly."
This leads to the question of how enforceable the rule is, and what would happen to those who are caught in violation. "How enforceable is any rule? I'd say this one is, more than many other things," Barnes said. Tweets are, after all, public statements by their very nature.
Those caught in violation, Barnes said, are responsible to self-report, and any first-time offense would likely be met with a slap on the wrist in the form of continuing education. Repeat offenders could run into more serious trouble from the NCAA or their specific conference. "In the Southeastern Conference we have commissioner regulations, where the school is prohibited from recruiting the kid for a month and the coach can't recruit off campus for two weeks," Barnes said. "That's a pretty big deal."