College coaches will soon have yet another social-media platform to worry about.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is planning to allow college coaches to use SnapChat to communicate with prospective student-athletes, according to an educational column published on Monday.
If you’re unfamiliar with SnapChat, it’s a social-messaging service that allows users to take pictures or videos, and then add text or drawings. Before sending the message, the sender sets an expiration time (anywhere from one to 10 seconds). After the recipient opens the message, they’ll only have that amount of time to view it before it disappears forever.
For recruits in basketball and men’s ice hockey, coaches can send SnapChats to any prospective student-athlete (or his or her parents or legal guardians) so long as it remains private between the coach and the athlete, according to the NCAA’s new guidance. Coaches in other sports will have to wait until prospective student-athletes sign a National Letter of Intent before engaging in private electronic conversations outside of emails or faxes. (The NCAA specifically named text messages, instant messages, SnapChat, and comments on a “wall or page” as examples of prohibited electronic correspondence.)
Because of SnapChat’s inherent temporality, allowing coaches to use such a service could open the door to potential recruiting violations. It largely eliminates the concept of a “paper trail,” since messages disappear 10 seconds (at most) after being opened.
However, users can use the “screenshot” function on their phone to save a permanent image of any SnapChat. So, if a football coach contacts a prospective student-athlete before he signs his LOI, that player could take a screenshot of the message and have evidence of NCAA-prohibited contact. (When someone takes a screenshot of a SnapChat, the sender is notified, however.)
According to the University of Texas’ compliance office, coaches can begin using SnapChat as a communication tool in August:
NCAA says SnapChat permissible to use for recruiting correspondence in Basketball & most other sports beg. 8/1. This should be interesting.
-- Texas Compliance (@TexasCompliance) February 11, 2014
As with all social-media sites, athletes and recruits aren’t the only ones who need to tread lightly. SnapChat may seem like the ultimate workaround when it comes to the NCAA’s prohibitions on coach-recruit contact, but the screenshot function could spell trouble for some coaches if spurned recruits decide to exact some revenge.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.