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School wants to halt athletes’ dumb web posts

After getting in trouble for breaking the NCAA’s rules about recruiting phone calls, the University of Oklahoma is trying to make sure more problems aren’t lurking on the internet.

Among safeguards put in place following NCAA sanctions against the men’s basketball program, the university has created a policy with recommendations for athletes’ usage of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

The policy was among documents sent to the NCAA as part of the university’s annual compliance report and released April 20 to The Associated Press after an open-records request.

Oklahoma also reported that it continues to add rules, education programs, and software designed to monitor compliance with NCAA rules following major violations by the men’s basketball and football programs.

The school is on probation until May 2010.

In the social networking policy, athletes are warned that their postings must comply with a code of conduct and can be punishable with education, counseling, suspension, or expulsion and with the reduction or cancellation of financial aid.

It warns athletes not to post pictures that would portray them negatively nor post contact information that agents or their runners could use to put the athletes’ eligibility in jeopardy.

"’Partying,’ ‘drinking,’ and ‘getting wasted’ do not qualify as real hobbies or interests," the policy warns.

The annual compliance reports are required as part of Oklahoma’s NCAA sanctions for former coach Kelvin Sampson’s hundreds of impermissible recruiting phone calls and an employment scandal that involved former quarterback Rhett Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn getting paid for work they did not perform at a car dealership.

This isn’t the first time the NCAA has addressed technology’s role in college athletics. The NCAA’s board of directors approved a ban in April 2007 that would outlaw text messages sent from college coaches to recruits. (See "NCAA passes text-messaging ban.")

The NCAA policy meant coaches had to rely on traditional recruiting methods such as phone calls and eMail. Some recruits who testified before the NCAA board of directors said coaches’ text messaging bordered on harassment.

The latest report on imposing limitations of online social networking outlines a new software system that centralizes documents, such as phone bills and records of athletes’ employment, and a program that can detect when the university’s computers have been used to access improper web sites, including ones that allow gambling or promote academic fraud.

According to the compliance report, Oklahoma’s secondary violations of NCAA rules have increased "consistently" since 2002.

"However, this trend should not be interpreted as negative, but rather reflects more effective and thorough monitoring," according to the April 1 report written by vice president and general counsel Anil Gollahalli.

The report lists 11 total secondary violations for the 2002-03 and 2003-04 school years, but at least 30 for every year since and a high point of 46 in 2005-06.

Included in the documents released were records of single secondary violations by the men’s baseball, wrestling, softball, tennis, and rowing programs, six by the football team, and one by the women’s basketball team.

The football violations included:

• Providing too much money to a football player to return home for the holidays because of an incorrect address

• Coach Bob Stoops and two assistants inadvertently visiting a recruit’s basketball game that had been rescheduled because of an ice storm

• Stoops mentioning at a news conference the name of a walk-on player who was technically still a prospect;

• Stoops sending an impermissible text to a recruit when he thought he was sending an eMail from his BlackBerry device

• Assistant coach Jackie Shipp taking a recruit to a restaurant he thought was on campus

• The program improperly providing meals and lodging worth $361.95 on a recruit’s official visit because of a mix-up regarding his legal guardian


University of Oklahoma

NCAA Board of Directors

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