The women’s soccer coaches at Ocean State University (OSU) have received several Facebook “friend” requests from prospective student-athletes. Some of these prospects are only freshmen and sophomores in high school. The OSUcoaches have not accepted any of the requests yet because Facebook sends an automated message to an individual when his/her “friend” request has been accepted.
Is it permissible to accept the prospects’ friend requests? Even for those that are not of age to receive electronic communication from the coaches?
Yes with conditions. NCAA Staff Interpretation- 12/5/13- “Friend” or “Follow” Requests on a Social Networking Site (I) – states that an institutional staff member is permitted to initiate or accept a “friend” or “follow” request to a prospective student-athlete (or his or her parents or legal guardians) through a social networking site at any time, including prior to the first permissible date to send electronic correspondence, even if the social networking website sends an automatically-generated electronic notification (e.g., email, text message, push notification), provided the staff member does not modify the automatically-generated electronic notification and no additional communication is included.
[References: NCAA Division I Bylaws 13.4.1 (recruiting materials), 220.127.116.11 (electronic transmissions), 18.104.22.168.1 (exception — basketball), 22.214.171.124.2 (exception — electronic transmissions after commitment), 126.96.36.199 (comments before commitment), and an official interpretation (3/14/07, Item No. 2)]