So this morning I wake up to this story in the Louisville Courier-Journal that is about an accusation by Beas Hamga's legal guardian and AAU coach, Mark Adams, that UK fans have been badgering Hamga to come to Kentucky on his MySpace and Facebook sites.
Most of you familiar with my writing probably think that I am going to blast UK fans for doing this, much as Chris Diggs did here at the C-J UK fan blog, but I am actually going to challenge others instead. Look, UK fans can be anything from 5 to 95+ years of age, and while I will grant you a good many of the so-called adults aught to know better than to do such a thing, it is very difficult and in fact impossible to facially distinguish an actual adult from a child, or a forgery from the real thing on such sites as Facebook and MySpace.
But suppose, just for a moment, we could do just that. What would their punishment be? If an adult person aware of the prohibition disregarded it, what would UK do, sue him? Trust me -- there are lots of causes for legal action out there, but this simply isn't one of them. In fact, owing to UK's acceptance of government money, such a claim would unquestionably run afoul of the First Amendment.
Therefore, the idea of enforcing a ban on "boosters", which is an ill-defined term to begin, from contacting a recruit on MySpace or Facebook or any other personal networking site is completely ridiculous. For the NCAA to allow and even encourage "self reporting" of such putative "secondary violations", as Sandy Bell did in July of last year, is over-the-top ridiculous.
I am not going to rag on Sandy Bell, she does what she thinks the NCAA requires her to do, and with nothing but the best of intentions to keep the university in compliance. After our past compliance issues, who can blame her for taking a very conservative stance toward compliance issues? Not me -- I applaud it, and thank her for working hard to keep our passionate support of the program from hurting our chances for success.
But with that said, the idea that we should now jump on fans' backs because of what appears on MySpace and Facebook is just ... well, without trying to put too fine a point on it, it's just stupid. Policing the Internet is simply not a job for a university compliance staff, and the tacit expectation by the NCAA for schools to somehow do just this is offensive and unethical.
The NCAA owes its member institutions more than this. By not clearly establishing a process for handling this sort of fan interaction and it's relationship to recruiting ethics, the NCAA is deliberately leaving it open to interpretation, in the process encouraging local newspapers to run "gotcha" pieces. This winds up allowing fan behavior at times and places beyond the reasonable control of the university to adversely impact university ethics -- an unfair situation if there ever was one.
Now, I must direct some criticism at Mr. Hamga's guardian and AAU coach. First of all, it is incumbent upon those responsible for young people's lives to help them prevent and minimize the possibility of being caught up in such "scandals", and police their on-line activities. He is surely old and wise enough in the ways of the world to know this can happen at any school, not just UK. We still don't know if fans of any other schools recruiting Hamga might have written on his various personal sites, but I think it is safe to say that it has surely happened.
My take is that Mr. Adams has apparently failed utterly, and not only that, actually perpetrated the perception that UK is illegally recruiting Hamga to ultimate detriment of Hamga and that of the University of Kentucky. That is both unfortunate and absolutely wrong. Mr. Adams should know full well that UK cannot police its fans outside university grounds -- UK simply has no legal authority to do so, nor any leverage whatsoever. Instead of quietly addressing this with UK compliance and asking for assistance, Mr. Adams runs off to the media to complain. Welcome to your 15 minutes of fame, sir.
And the fan's responsibility? You want me to say it's wrong for fans to badger recruits on their website, even after they have repeatedly been made aware that in today's bizarro world of NCAA cluelessness, almost any utterance about a recruit by anyone connected with a program, no matter how remote or one-sided, is a "secondary violation?" Do I really have to? And who would I be addressing -- actual fans, kids below the age of consent, or nefarious UK detractors faking messages to make the school look bad?
God knows, and He has chosen not to tell me. Maybe He will tell some of you, but I'm not holding my breath -- my guess is He will watch with amusement and let us figure this one out for ourselves.