SBD/July 26, 2011/Media

Colleges Turn To Software To Monitor Student-Athletes' Social Media Use

Centrix Social's program costs approximately $10,000 per year
The NCAA has "mined the social media accounts of athletes in recent years for potential violations, but only now has the clear message been sent that schools must really pay attention, too," according to the BIRMINGHAM NEWS' Jon Solomon, who writes under the header, "What To Do About Social Media? Colleges Tackle How To Monitor What Athletes Are Saying." Terry Ray, Joey McGilberry, Mike Murphy and Josh Dennis 18 months ago co-founded Centrix Social, a Birmingham-based software company that assists colleges and universities in monitoring the social media activity of student-athletes. Mississippi State Univ. last fall "became Centrix Social's pilot program to monitor what athletes post on Facebook and Twitter." Ray said that the company "is very close to adding another SEC school" to its list of clients. At Centrix Social, "the company preloads the rosters of a school's teams." The software "attempts to locate the social media identities, at which point it's up to the athletics department's policies on how to follow athletes." The company provides schools with "a list of 300 to 400 ... red-flag words," which can be customized to include "drug terms, gang phrases or people's names." When there is "a hit on a key word, Centrix Social generates e-mail warnings to the compliance department as well as any coaches who want to be notified." The program "costs $10,000 a year." Murphy, an attorney who works with the company, said that "simply banning athletes from social media could present two problems: Restricting free speech and failing to convince the NCAA that the ban constitutes monitoring." Murphy added, "I have a hard time believing the NCAA would see a ban as a sufficient way to monitor because intuitively, most people believe that won't work. Most people know social media is not going anywhere." Centrix Social "isn't the only program tracking social networks of college athletes." UDiligence has "emerged as a leading company, listing as clients Florida, Ole Miss, Baylor, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Louisville, Memphis, Texas and Texas Tech" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 7/24).
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