Refereeing on the field of Facebook, Myspace

With the dismissal of the University of Texas’ Buck Burnette because of controversial comments posted on his Facebook page, college coaches around the country are now realizing that something must be done to fight the hidden threat of networking sites.

SHSU Athletic Director Bobby Williams said his coaches don’t directly watch over their athletes, but do receive information about their social networking actions.

“The information we get is secondhand,” Williams said.

However, he did note that if an outside source alerted the athletic department to damaging information on the sites, action would then be taken to correct the problem.

While SHSU does not do check-ups, instead choosing to be alerted through indirect information, fellow Southland Conference opponents Stephen F. Austin State University and Texas State University choose to take a different stance.

“We don’t do it here in our office.,” Rick Poulter, Assistant Athletic director at Texas State said. “It more so depends on the coach.”

“We meet as a group with each individual team and caution them on what to put on the page,” Poulter said. “We remind them that it’s [going] to be permanent.”

As for SFA, Associate Director of Media Relations Brian Ross said “it’s their [athletes] personal right to have one. We encourage our coaches to try and monitor that. We try to educate our students about the dangers of putting up personal information; we try to prevent it with education.”

In Conference USA, the University of Houston takes greater measures to caution student athletes about the dangers of posting personal information on networking sites.

“We do periodic check ups once a month. I will look at the pages, specifically checking football [players],” said Kris Berkholter, Associate Athletic Director at U of H.

“We council at the beginning of the year through lifeskills about social websites,” Berkholter said. “The program started three years ago because of problems Memphis was having.”

Berkholter noted that when an athlete signs the committment form to play a sport at U of H, the generalization for checking the athlete’s networking sites is in the academic area of the form.

Burnette’s dismissal has even spurred other colleges to begin implementing a policy to start checking athlete’s networking sites.

“We are in the process now of doing a more monitary set-up,” said Blayne Beal, Associate Director of Media Relations at Texas Tech University.

Many people fail to realize, however, that controversial and personal information have been posted on networking sites before. This particular controversial comment about the future president by a college athlete on a networking site was sure to draw attention.

With the age of the Internet comes a new responsibility: to insure not only the safety of the athlete but the integrity of the athletic, department and university as well.

As for now, education about the sites by the college or university appears to be the only way to combat the danger.

“College kids will be college kids,” Berkholter said.

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