I thought that this would be of interest to the MGoBlog crowd, even if it is of the TLDR variety (apologies- this got long, but there's a lot of ground to cover here, I think). Essentially some universities (Oklahoma, North Carolina and Nebraska are mentioned) pay 3rd party companies $7000-10,000 per year to monitor student athletes' social media accounts. Also, some programs require that the athletes "friend" coaches (of course if Hoke had a Facebook account, he wouldn't have to mandate this- I mean, who wouldn't "friend" Hoke of their own volition?). This is in order to "look for things that could damage the school's brand and anything related to their eligibility" according to the chief executive of one of the companies.
Recently we've seen Roundtree commit a "NCAA violation" for tweeting to his friend Mike McCray (the article also mentions the UNC scandal which was prompted by a tweet), while by the same token social media has been credited with being a boon for recruiting. Social media is still such a very young and emerging field, both in terms of how it is changing athletics and life in general, specifically in this case in terms of how it crosses over into the realms of individual privacy rights and freedom of speech. There are a lot of grey areas to this, largely because we're in uncharted territory here. I know there's the #NoPolitics rule in effect here, but I think we could generate some interesting discussion here without crossing that line.
Personally, I fall on the privacy rights side of the debate, that student athletes should be unrestricted in their access/privacy with their social media, just like any other student, but that they have to realize that because they have a much higher profile than the average student, that with that comes a greater responsibility to use social media with caution, and that there may be consequences for their online, just as there would be for their offline, actions. I can understand having team rules address this- no tweeting during the season, the day of games, whatever- but having some kind of Big Brother watching over your social media shoulder is a bit much.
I'm curious what stance UM has in regards to social media and whether there should be a role for universities to monitor their athletes. It makes you wonder just how much of this is a slippery slope: would a university then monitor all social media for students, faculty and staff because of how they could potentially make the univerisity look?- to "damage the brand." Speaking of, I think MSU should look into hiring one of these companies to monitor their AD's tweets...except then we wouldn't be privy to his epic public failures.