NCAA opts to uphold ban on text messaging recruits

Updated: January 12, 2008, 9:01 PM ET
By Dana O'Neil | ESPN.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- OMG U must B kidding.

Nope, we're not kidding at all.

College coaches can ditch the splints for their opposable thumbs. Text messaging recruits went away with a whimper at the NCAA Convention on Saturday.

Or more appropriately, a frowned-faced emoticon.

In an overwhelming vote at Saturday's convention, the Division I membership decided to uphold a proposal that forbids coaches from text messaging recruits, with 78 percent voting to not override the current legislation.

"I'm not surprised," said Saint Joseph's athletic director Don DiJulia, whose head basketball coach, Phil Martelli, said he has no idea how to text. "We thought it was headed this way."

Indeed the interest to overturn the ban had such little support from those not in the coaching ranks it almost didn't even come up for discussion. On the first go-around during the legislative forum, Clemson University president James Barker, the chair of the Division I Board of Directors, couldn't even muster a vote. Calling for a motion to consider the override, Barker was met with a bunch of people glued to their chairs. One gentleman made a move toward a microphone but sheepishly shook his head when Barker asked if he was going to make a motion.

Unable to get the text messaging vote in front of the delegates, Barker moved on. It wasn't until other issues were considered and voted on that a representative from the University of Texas made a motion to consider the text messaging ban.

The lack of interest was nothing shy of stunning considering the upheaval and conversation the ban generated when it went into effect in August. Many coaches have complained that the legislation was knee-jerk and foolish; they said the rule failed to recognize the need to embrace technology rather than run away from it. Some said they used text messaging more for logistical purposes than anything, making sure a recruit was playing at a certain gym at a certain time for example, while others argued that texting was less intrusive since an athlete could simply ignore it if he or she chose to.

But Kerry Kenny, a former basketball player at Lafayette and the current president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, said student-athletes found text messaging to be intrusive, an added financial burden and said that it did little to improve the recruiting process.

"It may be the hippest form of communication, but it takes out the human element," Kenny said. "It's been six months since the ban and I'm delighted to say the recruiting process has survived."

His brief argument earned what grew into a pretty hearty round of applause, a sign of where the vote was headed.

The reality -- as anyone who has an iPhone, iPod or computer can attest -- is that the ban might be little more than a temporary fix. Technology changes daily and keeping up via legislation could be virtually impossible. This rule, for instance, doesn't include e-mails. Coaches can e-mail recruits as many times a day as they want to. Visit a college campus and you'd be hard-pressed to find a student who doesn't have a BlackBerry, Treo, Sidekick or some other handheld that brings e-mail off the computer and onto your hip.

"As we were sitting here talking about text messaging, I got a text from my daughter," MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor said. "There's no getting away from it. You can even send an e-mail to a phone number. By NCAA definition, that's an e-mail not a text so it's OK. But really what's the difference?"

It wasn't a good day to upset the establishment. A vote to override changes in baseball scholarships also failed to pass.

Long on the short end of the scholarship stick with only 11.7 scholarships available to entire rosters, baseball coaches now will have to follow NCAA mandates as to how to mete out that financial aid. In the past, creative coaches spread those handful of dollars to as many people as they could, divvying up the percentages of each scholarship to offer up what amounted to little more than enough scholarship money to pay for textbooks.

In 2009-10, baseball rosters will be capped at 27 players, each of whom can receive no less than 25 percent of a full scholarship.

"It's done for now," said North Carolina faculty athletic representative Jack Evans, who spoke in support of overriding the new legislation. "We can always go back and tweak the numbers."

Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com and can be reached at espnoneil@live.com.

Dana O'Neil | email

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