University of Kentucky uses technology to monitor athletes’ social media accounts

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The University of Kentucky had to have known what it was getting itself into when it hired basketball coach John Calipari in 2009.

The Wildcats knew they’d get a proven winner who would return Kentucky basketball to promise, which he did with a national title.

They also knew they’d get the best recruiter in college basketball, which Calipari proved when four of his players went in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft, including the top two picks.

But they also knew they’d be taking on Calipari’s shady past.

UMass had its 4-1 1996 NCAA Tournament record vacated when the NCAA discovered that UMass player Marcus Camby had accepted a reported $40,000 in cash and gifts from an agent. It was later reported that Camby’s brother needed the money for groceries.

The NCAA investigated allegations that a player on the 2007-08 team committed “knowing fraudulence or misconduct in connection with his entrance examination” and had an unknown individual complete his SAT examination. The NCAA informed Calipari in a letter that he was not considered “at risk” in this investigation.

The player was subsequently identified as Derrick Rose. Subsequently, allegations surfaced that Rose’s brother, Reggie, had been allowed to travel to Tiger road games for free.

On August 20, 2009, the NCAA ruled that Rose was ineligible and forced Memphis to vacate the entire 2007-08 season, including the NCAA Tournament and its standing as runner-up. It took the line that even though Rose’s score had not been thrown out by the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT, until after the season, strict liability required that Rose be ruled ineligible. The committee also determined that even without the questions about his SAT score, he would have lost his eligibility in December 2007 due to his brother being allowed to travel with the team for free.

On October 7, 2011, the Associated Press published a story about John Calipari and Derrick Rose settling a lawsuit with Memphis fans over the vacated 2008 season. According to the article, “Former Memphis coach John Calipari and ex-Tigers guard Derrick Rose agreed last year to pay $100,000 to avoid a lawsuit over the Tigers’ season that ended in the 2008 Final Four with the wins later vacated by the NCAA.

According to a settlement signed May 28, 2010, with attorneys representing some Memphis season ticket holders, not only did Calipari and Rose agree to pay $100,000, but Calipari and Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson committed to repaying Final Four bonuses.”

So while Calipari has avoided any direct cheating implications, his perception has not. A Google search for “Calipari Cheating” will show you that his brand has pretty much been etched in stone.

In fact, just this week, newspapers reported that two NCAA enforcement officials visited Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel’s New Hampshire prep school this month to ask about Noel’s recruitment process, a Tilton School administrator confirmed to SI.com.

The NCAA is investigating people involved in Noel’s recruitment and Noel’s payment for unofficial visits, according to SI.com, which cited “a person with knowledge of the NCAA inquiry.” In May, the two officials also traveled to Noel’s high school in Massachusetts.

So, while Calipara will forever be synonymous with “cheating,” that isn’t stopping the Wildcats from trying to protect their own image — and their players.

A University of Kentucky student-athlete who publishes content on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and/or MySpace that includes any 1 of 370 sports agent names will automatically have that post flagged and sent to his/her coach.

It is a part of a new effort by the university to monitor student-athletes’ use of social media, protect the school from having its reputation damaged and diminish the possibility of being sanctioned by the NCAA.

Sports Agent Blog

This is an interesting step, albeit one that’s more for show than anything else.

First, I seriously doubt a college athlete would be dumb enough to publicly reach out to an agent via social media.

Second, if an athlete were that dumb, the damage already would be done. This technology kicks in after the fact. It wouldn’t stop an athlete from Tweeting about an agent – just let the school know that it happened.

Finally, this is public monitoring. The software monitors public posts. Not, say, a private Facebook message, where this type of communication is most likely to occur.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

We’ve all seen examples of college athletes (and pro athletes) sticking their cleats in their mouths on Facebook and Twitter.

But I’d much rather this be a blend of technology and resources.

Why just monitor for agent’s names?

Why not have two, three, four or five interns in the athletic department monitor all social media posts?

With the technology, it’s not that hard, and it would be much more effective.

About Cody Swann

Cody Swann is an entrepreneur, developer, strategist, banged up ex-football walk-on, retired body builder and former journalist born and raised in South Florida. He currently splits his time between his hometown of Stuart, FL and Los Angeles, CA. Cody founded Gunner Technology, a highly sought after digital agency, specializing in helping companies maximize profits through custom web development, technology efficiencies, social media strategy and search engine marketing. As a manager and developer at ESPN for nearly six years, Cody led development and vision for two of ESPN’s most popular online features: Sports Scoreboards and GameCasts. Additionally Cody oversaw all aspects of MyESPN and ESPN’s social network, ESPN Fan Profiles. Cody worked with Technology, Editorial, Sales, Marketing and relevant business stakeholders to mold ESPN’s social media strategy, develop custom applications for it and execute it. Under his direction, ESPN successfully ported large portions of its core product from a proprietary Java stack to an open source Ruby on Rails stack, capable of standing up and performing under the tremendous load world's most popular sports site delivers. Cody began forging his technological knowledge more than 10 years ago, developing and designing websites in college. His development work has included web development, web design, content writing, digital photography and digital video production for award-winning sites like Gainesville.com, GatorSports.com and ESPN.com. He has helped set digital strategy and direction for companies in the New York Times Regional Newspaper group, ESPN, ABC and Disney. He is a recognized expert in web development, social media strategy, search engine optimization, conversion optimization, analytics tracking and business planning. He has worked with large interactive media companies to small and medium sized businesses. Cody motivates and inspires creative teams to deliver superb, polished work under tight deadlines.

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