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Ban This, Ban That

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Well, the big news of the day is the freshly minted NCAA ban on coaches text-messaging potential student athletes.  I first heard about it at NCAA Hoops Blog at Cincinnati.com , but Aaron's UK Blog was also in on it early.  ESPN has comprehensive coverage of the ban here, here and here.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune also covers the story.

One thing I don't like about regulatory bodies like the NCAA is that they are quick to ban new technologies, and slow to adapt to them.  Text messaging, or SMS (Short Message Service) showed up on the telecom scene in the mid-1990's and by 2000 had become tech noir, particularly among teen and adolescent cell phone users.  By 2003, SMS had become the method of choice among many, especially in Asia and then Europe, and now is rapidly replacing telephone calls as the preferred method of communication for people 25 and under.  It is that huge.

Comes now the NCAA not to regulate this service, but to bury it's use in recruiting.  That is where the NCAA and I part ways.  Banning a communications method is always a reflexive action usually done because the regulating body can't figure out how to, well, regulate it.  That's the real trouble with SMS from the standpoint of the NCAA -- it evades their grasp, so they just place it off limits as a recruiting tool.

The NCAA claims to be responding to the concerns of the student athlete and their parents.  Some claim that messages are sent and received in the middle of school classes and past bedtime, and the recruits feel compelled to respond.  

Another concern is economic.  The other day, I linked an article by Luke Winn at SI.com  that indicated Patrick Patterson's mother had received a $500+ telephone bill that was due to excessive text messaging.  I'd say that's a problem, especially for athletes who's parents are mired in the lower economic strata.  

But if parents can regulate the use of messaging by their kids, they can surely do so for coaches by asking them to limit the use of the service.  I have no doubt the coaches would comply.

Frankly, I think the NCAA claiming to ban text messaging on behalf of the interests of student athletes is a complete dissimulation.  They are banning it because they can't get their Luddite-infected brains around how to regulate it, which could be as simple as assigning certain hours during the day for messaging or opt-in style rules that require a recruit's permission before text messaging him.  I guess they figure that might be too much work.

And what about potential abuse of the ban?  Suppose an unscrupulous NCAA coaching staff or other third party with outside interests in a recruit decided to forge "illegal" messages from a rival coach or staff?  Maybe this is far-fetched, but stranger things have happened.

The NCAA has promised to revisit this ban as early as next year, so I suppose we should give credit where credit is due.  And there is is no doubt that the service is being abused by some coaches, and that guidelines and rules for appropriate use are needed.  But I guess the NCAA is just plain too lazy or too technologically challenged to worry about that right now.

Whatever.  But banning it is not a fix, and we should expect more from such allegedly intelligent people.

Update [2007-4-27 9:24:10 by Truzenzuzex]: Dennis at Pitt Blather has a similar take.

Update [2007-4-27 13:50:11 by Truzenzuzex]: Bret Dawson of the Courier-Journal has a blog entry on the subject.

Update [2007-4-29 14:19:37 by Truzenzuzex]:   Mike DeCourcy has a different take .