This morning I conducted my 11th NCAA eligibility meeting with a group of student-athletes since the beginning of the school year just seven weeks ago. What is an NCAA eligibility meeting? I am sure this meeting differs from institution to institution but at Luther we have a wide variety of topics we cover with our student-athletes on a yearly basis to ensure they are educated on NCAA, Iowa Conference and Luther policies.
A constant every year is our discussion on the NCAA’s policy on academics, which requires all student-athletes maintain a certain cumulative GPA and a certain number of credits in order to practice and compete. I am happy to report that at Luther we rarely deal with problems in this area. We have more than 500 student-athletes at Luther that create a really great balance between their studies in the classroom and on the field of play. I also discuss the NCAA’s stance on dietary supplements, non-traditional seasons, drug-testing, medical hardships, seasons of participation and sports gambling, among other subjects.
Each year, I try and highlight a topic to keep the student-athletes on their toes that may be attending this meeting for the third or fourth time in their collegiate careers. This year, my highlighted subject has been ethical conduct. The NCAA obviously has struggled in this area with institutions and athletic departments over the past few years- especially in Division I football. Whether it be recruiting violations or the alleged paying of student-athletes, it seems like there is something making the Sports Center news feed on a daily basis within college athletic departments.
What do we discuss in the "ethical conduct" area at Luther College? Our main discussion this fall has been the world of social media. The NCAA governs athletic department staffs on how to use social media legally with recruiting. But so far the NCAA has been vague on their stance with how to govern and monitor our student-athletes and their actions. This summer I spent a few weeks researching the items that we may want to include in Luther’s first version of an athletic department social media policy and decided it was time for us to have one.
As an athletic department, we are moving forward with the idea I was intrigued by in my research. Recently, Michelle Brutlag Hosick, writer for ncaa.org, wrote the piece "Social networks pose monitoring challenge for NCAA schools" on athletic department monitoring of student-athlete social media usage. She says the most successful method of monitoring social media usage by today's college student-athletes will be self-policing by our own student-athletes. I agree. And I think the larger picture that I have been presenting to our Norse nation of student-athletes this fall is, “who do WE want to be?”
Here is the link to the Luther College Athletic Department Social Media Policy for those who are curious: http://www.luther.edu/sports/resource/check-list/.
Renae Hartl is head softball coach and associate athletic director at Luther College. She also serves as Luther's senior women's administrator and NCAA compliance and eligibility officer. Her coaching record of 363-146 stands out as one of the best in the history of Luther College athletics. She has three consecutive 40+ win seasons and four consecutive appearances in the NCAA National Championship Finals.