Post Classifieds

The upside of Varsity Monitor

By Sam Ellison
On February 1, 2012


This past fall marked the beginning of a conversation of whether the NCAA should allow universities to pay student-athletes for their time commitments and revenue generation at their respective academic institutions. 

As a student-athlete myself, I do not think I deserve payment. Why? Because it was my choice and my commitment to compete in Division I athletics. In other words—it is a privilege, not a right.  

  While this may never be a policy that is formally enforced nationwide, there is a policy instituted at many schools through a private agency called Varsity Monitor. 

Varsity Monitor monitors the activity of student-athletes on social networking websites by looking for key words or inappropriate material on their accounts.

Their mission statement declares, "At Varsity Monitor, we monitor the social media interaction of athletes for questionable conduct that could negatively affect their athletic availability, hurt their future career and sponsorship opportunities and damage the brand of their team, league and institution."

For instance,  if the word "agent" or some sort of offensive language were to appear an athlete's Facebook it would show up on Varsity Monitor's tracking system. Varsity Monitor would then notify the compliance office, which would then notify the coach who would call the athlete in to discuss the violation.  

In principle, it makes sense to assure that a university's student-athletes are not tarnishing their school's brand name and more importantly, that they are not putting their own reputation in jeopardy.

With that, I will speak about the pros of Varsity Monitor. 

As said within its mission statement, deep at its core, this system seeks to protect athletes and their futures. Far too often have student-athletes thrown away their athletic careers due to careless activity on social media outlets.  

This system is actually more efficient and less invasive than previous methods of monitoring student-athletes.  

Traditionally, schools would create a fictitious account and send friend requests to athletes unbeknownst to those individuals.

Once these requests were accepted, schools would look through the athletes' accounts and check to make sure that their pages were free of suspect material.  

For example, if I had been talking to an agent on my Facebook page or posting pictures with drugs or alcohol, or if I had talked about hazing, the school's fake Facebook account could have potentially picked up on it. I would then be called in with the potential threat of being cut from the team.

However, the way Varsity Monitor utilizes its automated and manual oversight to monitor the student-athletes' accounts is more efficient and, in fact, less underhanded than the compliance office making a fabricated account to monitor the athletes. 

With this method, if an athlete decides to let his or her account be monitored for suspicious activity and something should be found, the compliance office and coaches can call the athlete in an attempt to dismiss the issue with a simple warning.  

If there is a second offense, there is a second warning and then a meeting with the particular university's athletic director to pursue further action. 

Of course, all of these are relative to the intensity of the violations discovered. Nonetheless, this procedure gives athletes the opportunity to fix the problem, whereas if they did not allow their account to be monitored, there are no warnings given.

  So, on top of the warnings, Varsity Monitor seeks to prepare student-athletes for the world outside of college when employers can do virtually the same thing. It also teaches student-athletes to be responsible on social networking sites because in the current climate, everything is documented on the Internet and everyone can see what is posted.

While these pros are certainly apropos to protecting and educating student-athletes, the question now is where we draw the line for how much power the NCAA and its colleges have over athletes.

One may venture to say that monitoring our accounts is a violation of our civil rights, but any lawyer will tell you that there are certain things you give up when you are an athlete or an employee, or even just a regular student here at Villanova.

But again, where do we draw the line? How much more should we append to the cumbersome list of things that student-athletes must give up to compete?

Ultimately, it is always the 10 percent of people in any demographic that ruin it for the 90 percent and that should unquestionably be accounted for. 

However, should I have to think twice every time I use profanity on Twitter? Or post a comical yet racy picture on Facebook that might get me in trouble just because I'm a student-athlete?

Lamentably, the answer will always be yes. Since it is my desire to compete for the Villanova Wildcats and pursue my athletic dreams, there are certain things that I must give up. I have to give up my time, talents and treasures to this program.

If I want to work in corporate America, chances are I'm going to have to wear a suit and tie to work every day. If I want to live in an apartment complex, I probably won't be able to blast my music as loud as I want. If I want to make money and provide for my family, I probably won't get to see them as much as I like.  

And if I want to continue competing for this great school, chances are, my Twitter and Facebook will be monitored in the near future.  

It may be too invasive in the opinion of many granting the NCAA and its schools another reason to use student-athletes as pawns in a powerful system.

But at the end of the day, we as athletes are here for a reason: to go to school and get an education while pursuing our athletic ambitions. 

No one is holding us down to stop us from quitting and becoming a regular student. 

So if I have to give a few things up, that's all right. 

Because as life goes on, that list of things I must sacrifice to sustain my happiness will not get any shorter.




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