Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where's the Line?

This site is a fan site devoted to UNC Greensboro basketball. It is not a media site. It's nothing more than my opinions mixed in with links to stories from actual media sites. I assume that anyone who reads this site regularly knows these facts. If not, I have a disclaimer at the top of the page on the left hand side and even a little note at the bottom of the page in my "About Me" section.

There's a reason I'm pointing all of this out. Last week, the Washington (D.C.) Post ran this article about the blurring of the line between fan site/media and the problems that this was causing in recruiting.

The article uses an example of two guys that run a website devoted the NC State basketball and how a simple conversation with a recruit turned into a situation that made NC State officials very uneasy.

The scene illuminates a growing concern in college basketball. NCAA rules explicitly state that fans of teams cannot be involved in recruiting, but those regulations blur when the fan wears a media credential. Such credentials, which are issued by whatever entity is running a particular event, designate the bearers as media members, giving them access to prospects that even college coaches don't have during the all-important summer evaluation period. College coaches are not permitted to interact with prospects during the period.

NCAA officials and prominent figures on the summer basketball circuit are alarmed at an increasing number of fans who are creating Web sites, obtaining media credentials and becoming amateur recruiters. Rachel Newman-Baker, the NCAA's agent, gambling and amateurism director, said one of the organization's biggest concerns this summer was who was obtaining media credentials and for what purpose.

Fan sites are just that, sites by fans. The internet has given a voice to anyone who registers with blogspot, wordpress or any "Iheartmyteam.com" web address.

But Bradham maintained that supporting and promoting their favorite team is their "number one goal," that he views former Wolfpack players as heroes and that he hopes the best recruits go to North Carolina State.

"We're not recruiters," said Bradham, 25. "We know there is a fine line. But we'd be ignorant to say [recruits] didn't know we were representing N.C. State. When we go up to a player and say, 'Hey, we're from WolfpackHoops dot com,' they get it."

The article points to individual schools sites that fall under the umbrella of Scout or Rivals as sites that do not operate in this gray area. However, even that doesn't always hold true.

Since then, he [Myers] has served as a recruiting analyst for the site, a role that brought him to John Paul Jones Arena on the University of Virginia campus in June for the NBA Players Association Top 100 camp. Sitting in the stands during a night session, Myers placed a call on his cellphone to Demon Deacons men's basketball assistant coach Rusty LaRue.

"Coach, I've got C.J. Barksdale here for you," Myers said. "I'm going to put him on the line now."

Reading this article scares a little 'ol blogger like me. It also reminds me to stay away from almost all things relating to recruiting. I have received emails in the past from people telling me they saw player "ABC" or "XYZ" here or there around campus on visits and I haven't written anything about it. Why? Because if I don't have a article to link to, I just don't think it's a good idea. I even felt a little uneasy this year about discussing players who verbally committed to UNCG before they signed their LOI. However, I don't think I'm doing much more than saying, "Hey, go look at this article about Jon Doe, and here's a summary of what it says." I would never knowingly break the rules, and I try to shy away when I'm unclear about the rules.

I started this site last year to simply be an internet cheerleader for UNCG basketball and let people know that there are fans out here that care about our school and our team. I don't do this to make any money. I don't have any ads sold on the site. I work a full-time job (that's sometimes more than full-time). I started this simply for fun. I wasn't sure if anyone would find it, read it, or even care about what it said. I have been very surprised by the response. I appreciate the emails I have received from people telling me thanks or that I'm doing a good job (even though I'm not always timely in replying to them). I'm sure if I keep doing this long enough, I'll get some that think just the opposite, and I'll appreciate those too.

The point is that I'm not trying to claim that I'm a journalist or that my site is media. Shame on these guys for doing just that.