NORTH CAROLINA ‘ The National Collegiate Athletic Association has reversed a long-standing policy that had ignored the right of collegiate newspapers to interview high school student-athlete recruits.
The policy was changed in September after the NCAA initially said the University of North Carolina at Charlotte violated a bylaw when its student-run Web site, NinerOnline, published several articles about sports recruits.
The NCAA forbids its member schools from discussing or commenting on a recruiting prospect’s ability or likelihood of signing. A school can only confirm that it is recruiting the student athlete.
Because NinerOnline receives some funding from the university, the NCAA reasoned the Web site’s staff members were employees of the university and its recruiting stories were thus in violation of NCAA bylaws.
‘We had viewed student newspapers as part of the university, and the university can’t comment on these things,’ said NCAA spokesperson Wally Renfro.
After NinerOnline and the UNC-Charlotte athletic department appealed the initial ruling, the NCAA’s Committee of Membership overturned its original decision.
‘The Committee of Membership reviewed it and agreed that student newspapers should be treated the same way as commercial newspapers,’ Renfro said.
NCAA now recognizes student press as a entity separate from the university even if it receives school funding.
UNC-Charlotte athletic department officials first brought the issue to NCAA after reviewing a NinerOnline flyer that advertised basketball-recruiting stories written by staff member Jason Jordan.
‘I am very relieved that the NCAA backed off so quietly,’ said Jordan, content editor of the NinerOnline. ‘No media outlet wants to be told what they can and can’t write and the bottom line is that they should be able to write any and everything that they would like to.’
The new interpretation recognizing the student press’ right to report on recruitment stories will not be included in the NCAA’s bylaws, but it will be documented and should be practiced by all member schools, Renfro said.