Just when you thought athletes were the only ones who got themselves into trouble on Twitter, Jay Norvell went and blew that myth to smithereens.
Or, at least, @CoachJayNorvell did.
First, a little background for those of you who might not be part of the Twittersphere.
Tuesday morning, a string of tweets appeared on the Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator's account. The posts went out to six recruits, all high school juniors who are wide receivers, and each of the six received at least one message that said:
“This is Coach Jay Norvell from Oklahoma. Cel (405) 431-XXXX. Would like to offer you a Full Scholarship to Oklahoma. Call me!”
One of three things happened here.
One, Norvell posted the tweets.
Two, someone involved in Sooner recruiting working on behalf of Norvell posted the tweets.
Three, someone hacked Norvell's account and posted the tweets.
If the answer is behind Door No. 1 or Door No. 2 — even if the tweets were meant to be direct messages, not posts that all the world could see — it isn’t good news for the Sooners. Coaches are prohibited from talking about recruits publicly. They aren’t allowed to put scholarship offers in writing until Aug. 1 of a prospects senior year.
Granted, it’s likely that the NCAA would see these as secondary violations, not major penalties for the Sooners. That’s probably why we haven’t seen OU offer any comment or statement on the issue; it tends to issue a statement once or twice a year announcing any secondary violations that have been reported to the NCAA.
But in an athletic department that has had its share of problems with impermissible contact with recruits, this might signal a bigger issue.
Then again, it might.
Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that simply keeping up with all the recruiting rules and regulations is tough. In my reporting for this column, I searched high and low on the Internet for the answers to some fairly simple questions. Some searches resulted in conflicting answers. Others resulted in confusion.
Finally, I threw up my hands and called on a friend at NCAA Headquarters.
Here’s how the NCAA’s website explains the Twitter regulations:
“Tweeting is permissible as long as coaches are not using it to contact individual prospective student-athletes and are abiding by the standard recruiting rules such as not discussing specific recruits or contacting them when it is not permissible.”
But then upon clarification, I learned that a coach can contact an athlete using “a prospective student-athlete’s MySpace or Facebook account using the e-mail inbox feature.”
First of all, most high school kids nowadays don’t even remember when MySpace was popular, much less have an account. And second, Twitter wasn’t mentioned, so you have to assume the direct-messaging feature is equivalent to that e-mail inbox feature.
Maybe sending those recruits a DM is what Norvell, or whoever was manning his account Tuesday morning, intended to do. It wouldn’t be the first time a tweet intended for the privacy of direct messaging was instead posted where everyone could see.
One wrong click, and everyone gets to check out your newest secondary violation.
Twitter is a world where more and more coaches are headed these days. With text messaging prohibited in recruiting — the recent elimination of that ban for men’s basketball coaches will be interesting to track — social media is one way for coaches to connect with recruits. And by connecting, I don’t necessarily mean something illegal. A recruit can follow a coach and get a sense of their personality, their likes, their dislikes. That sort of thing can create a connection without doing anything that violates NCAA rules.
By the looks of it, up until Tuesday morning, that’s exactly what @CoachJayNorvell had done. There were motivational messages and scripture verses. There were photos of walk-throughs to road trips. A couple weeks ago, there was even the announcement of the Norvell family’s newest acquisition — a 10-week-old pit bull named “Bleu.”
But now, OU compliance officials should be asking some questions about what appeared on that Twitter account Tuesday morning.
Much ado about nothing?
Unless it isn’t.