Sometimes the NCAA does things that seem to rub some people the wrong way without any real reason behind it. Prohibiting a school from printing a Twitter hash tag on their football field may be one of those instances.
Today the NCAA released updated rules regarding field markings, uniforms and playing equipment. In it, the NCAA now prohibits any school from painting a website address or Twitter hash tag on the playing field.
Mississippi State was the first school to paint a school-specific hash tag on to their football field. In fact, they have done it multiple times. Michigan once branded the Michigan Stadium playing surface with their own hash tag. Fearing that a door had been opened a crack for potential advertising opportunities, the NCAA removed the possibility by eliminating hashtags from being eligible to be painted on the football field.
The basic logic is simple enough. The hash tag is being viewed as a form of advertising, encouraging fans to use the school "sponsored" hash tag in hopes of becoming trending topic, for whatever that is worth in reality.
It should be noted that hashtags on the sidelines is still perfectly fine, as long as it falls within the guidelines. Just keep it off the actual field. Surely schools will be quick to move some hashtags to the backs of the end zones or directly next to the sidelines, strategically of course to ensure they get some air time on television without breaking the rules.
The only markings allowed on the field now include the NCAA logo (of course), school and conference logos, the corporate name of the stadium name rights holder and appropriate bowl game markers when needed. According to the NCAA, "All other items, including social media designations such as URL’s and hashtags, are prohibited."
This may be a short-term ruling. With social networking growing in popularity and usefulness by the day, being able to create ways to interact with fans more effectively and relay information about the game to as many interested parties as possible makes it seem as though in time the NCAA will scale back on this ruling. At least, they probably should. As long as a school uses the hashtags responsibly and does not sell it as a form of advertising, what is the harm? If nothing else, it helps bring more attention to a school and their program, and isn't that what is needed to keep the NCAA going?
It may not be a huge deal, but we have seen schools find unique ways to use social networking to embrace their fans, from big time universities that really don't need the help to programs struggling to compete for coverage. Why the NCAA would frown on that is anybody's guess.
Oh, but don't pretend as though the NCAA doesn't know how effective hashtags can be on Twitter. They do, after all, have their own official hashtags for each sport, including football.
How long until he NCAA decides it is OK for schools to paint the #NCAAFB or #FCS hashtags on their fields? If Twitter continues to become a staple in the way fans and collegiate athletic programs connect, it may not be shocking to see it happen at some point.
In addition to the hashtag ruling, the NCAA says pylon markers may have a manufacturer's logo or trademark, school or conference logo or the corporate sponsor for any bowl games printed on the side. Oh, that will definitely be happening, because photographers love pylon shots and TV cameras love the occasional field-level pylon shot during a lull in the action or coming back from commercials (naturally).
It seems as though the NCAA could have just gone with a rule limiting the use of hashtags to school-specific themes and perhaps probiting the selling of hashtag space. But oh well.
As for uniforms, the NCAA is ensuring that football will not become victim to what we saw in basketball by prohibiting numerals to be shaded the same color as the jersey. Like this. Instead, numerals must be a clearly contrasting color to make it easier to read for officials. That rule goes in to effect this season for FBS, meaning Adidas has time go back to the drawing board (plausible).
The NCAA is also cracking down on towels, because why not? Towels should be no smaller than 4" x 12" and may be no larger than 6" x 12". I would love to know who has the responsibility to check towel size. Also, no more tinted eye shields for players, which means LaDainian Tomlinson would have looked pretty different today. This is supposedly for medical reasons. Not at all to keep players from exhibiting any sort of personal style or flair. We can't have that.
Some of this just seems a little #excessive.