Once in a while, we get an e-mail or see a post on the board asking why we haven't linked to a certain recruiting story that's out there on the Web. We thought this might be a good time, then, to talk a little about how we deal with certain recruiting issues as well as how we interact with the NCAA and with Duke.
Fan sites like ours serve as a conduit to generate interest and enthusiasm in the teams we revere. We report on news and try to find what the "real scoop" is. We do this, however, in an ethereal world that's devoid of internal standards and ethical guidelines. That is not to say, however, that there aren't external rules that apply to us. And dictating those rules is that 800-lb. gorilla - the NCAA.
From time to time, we check with the NCAA prior to taking certain actions or providing certain reports. For instance, before we implemented certain elements of the charity auctions benefiting the Duke Children's Hospital, we cleared it with the NCAA that our involvement with the DCH did not lend an official "Duke" imprimatur to our site.
Why did we bother to do that? Because, as the NCAA has quite specifically told us about our site and other fan sites, we are viewed as a booster of Duke University. "Boosters," according to the NCAA definition, are "individuals and organizations engaged in activities promoting the athletics interest of the institution." Running a Web site that advocates and supports Duke athletics is, according to the NCAA, an activity that promotes the interest of Duke athletics. It is irrelevant that we are not on Duke's payroll nor is the "booster" categorization based on whether one of us is an Iron Duke or not. So long as we're promoting Duke athletics as part of our activities in running the DBR, we're boosters. (Rah Duke!)
It becomes a sensitive issue for Duke as well because the NCAA imposes on its member schools the responsibility for its boosters and the consequences of their actions. Is that fair? An undue burden, you say? How can a school monitor the unknown actions of its boosters? Well, see "Maggette, Corey" for an analogous situation.
And one of those hot-button issues for Duke and the NCAA is booster contact with recruits. Specifically, NCAA Bylaw 13.01.5.1 expressly prohibits boosters from "making in-person, on- or off-campus recruiting contacts, or written or telephonic communications with a prospect or the prospect's relatives or legal guardians." That means we can't go around calling prospects in their homes, meeting a parent at a game, or even writing them a letter. In all of its correspondence, the NCAA has been very clear on that prohibition. In fact, the NCAA has prepared a letter that it recommends its member schools send to boosters who have or may have contact with prospects and/or their families. You can see that letter here.
Accordingly, we will never engage in contacting recruits nor try to be "cute" by going around these very clear rules by linking to fan sites that have contacted recruits. While we appreciate the enthusiasm of and sympathize with fan sites that want to get the "scoop" on recruiting, we firmly believe that to the extent they are contacting prospects or their families, these fan sites are playing with fire. The very fact that they are proclaiming their loyalty to a particular school puts them under the NCAA microscope, and if they do indeed contact recruits, they are seriously jeopardizing the recruiting success of the very school they support.
(Note that this does not mean an alumnus of a school can't report on recruiting. They can, but it can't be a booster site. For example, guys like Clint Jackson and Bob Gibbons run recruiting sites that don't advocate any specific school.)
And don't think we're just being paranoid. Both in a telephone conversation and in e-mail, the NCAA has told us that they do monitor our site in particular and other fan sites in general. Just because the NCAA has not yet taken action against a school because of the unofficial actions of a fan site, don't assume they won't. They are looking at the situation very carefully, and the letter they've prepared for member schools that we referenced above is a further indication of that fact.
Also, if you want to see a PowerPoint demonstration that the NCAA has prepared for one of its recent regional seminars, you can click here and then go through the slides using the arrows on the right side. It's not detailed, but it gives you a good review of NCAA regulations on schools and boosters, especially in the age of the Internet.
We maintain good relations with Duke not because we're entangled with them but because we separate ourselves from them. We let Coach K and Coach G and their staffs handle recruiting, and we don't interfere. Officials at Duke have become increasingly concerned and frustrated with what they see on the Internet, especially with regard to how certain sites handle recruiting. As more unregulated sites spring up on the Internet, the number of trip-wires grows. We don't want to be the focal point of that concern and frustration, and we can only hope that other sites out there begin to realize how much havoc their passion and zeal can conceivably cause.
We would urge all fan sites to become familiar with NCAA regulations and to contact the NCAA or your school's NCAA compliance director directly if you have questions. You're doing the school you root for a disservice if you don't. We have found the NCAA officials to be prompt in their response and most appreciative that we've taken the initiative to contact them. It does wonders to build bridges, not burn them.
Two other quick notes on related topics:
1. We welcome the opportunity to forge relationships and mutual links with other sites. We would just ask you to do what guys like Mike Sullivan, Ben Sherman, Mike Pegram, Kurt O'Neill, and Clint Jackson have done - establish a dialogue with us. Don't send us e-mail that says the equivalent of "LINK ME!" To be honest, we don't have much patience with what we call "remora sites" that want to latch on to us and have us feed them our traffic over and over again when they basically stay invisible and offer no mutually beneficial relationship. We enjoy helping other sites, and it's to our benefit to do so, but we're much more inclined to do so when we have some sense of social intercourse.
2. As you may have noticed, Carlos Boozer's and Jason Williams' parents have been kind enough to post on the DBR Bulletin Board on a regular basis. We ask you to be equally courteous, and in the case of the Boozers, to remember the recruiting rules we just wrote about. As many of you know, the Boozers have a younger son who is a basketball talent in his own right. Because he may constitute a Duke prospect, we urge you not to ask any question to the Boozers about their younger son, especially anything having to do with his interest in Duke basketball beyond his brother, Carlos. Indeed, this is one instance where we will absolutely block any questions about him that we see cross our screen. Thanks for understanding!