NCAA lifts in-game Tweet limit: Will the University of Washington follow suit?

Back in November, we reported on the University of Washington’s athletic department and its controversial policy to limit the number of reporter Tweets during live basketball and football games.

That policy was in some part predicated by a similar rule the NCAA had in place for its postseason events.

But now the NCAA is loosening its grip: There will no longer be numerical restrictions on social media postings during NCAA postseason events. 

That change was actually implemented earlier this year, but reiterated again during an Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) meeting today.

We just spoke with APSE president Gerry Ahern, who confirmed today’s announcment.

“The NCAA decided that there’s no reason to put a limit on live Tweets per game,” he said.

During the regular season, the NCAA does not have control over how schools regulate their own media guidelines. Those are set up by the school and the conference.

But postseason play is organized by the NCAA and media must follow its rules. Ever since a Louisville Courier-Journal reporter was ejected from a NCAA baseball postseason game six years ago for blogging too much, previous guidelines limited the number of social media updates a given media entity could produce.

However, the NCAA reexamined this policy and decided that it actually didn’t make much sense.

“They still maintain some discretion in terms of how much is too much, but they are not worried about tweeting play-by-play,” Ahern said of the NCAA. “It’s not a matter of jeopardizing someone’s broadcast rights by somebody Tweeting game action.”

From the conversations that took place in today’s meeting, Ahern said it was two things that caused the NCAA to change its mind.

First was the ability to monitor Tweets from every single media outlet.

“Policing that situation would be pretty hard to do if you’re going to try to regulate Twitter accounts,” said Ahern, who is also the director of news content for USA Today Sports. “I don’t think they have the staffing to do it.”

The second reason centered on broadcast rights infringement. In its current policy, the UW states that the department may revoke a credential if a media member is “producing a real-time description of the contest.” The reasoning behind that train of thought stems from the concern that if media members Tweet out a play-by-play account of the game, fans may be more inclined to follow their Twitter feeds, rather than watch the game on TV or listen on radio.

In theory, that may cause a school like the UW to lose viewers on content that it owns the rights to. The NCAA has realized that it’s actually the opposite. 

“The NCAA (agreed) that broadcast rights holders would actually love to have people Tweeting about the game,” Ahern said. “That’s not going to get people to turn the TV off. That’s going to get people to watch the game and actually turn the TV on. [Tweeting] is a good thing for the broadcast partner.”

Ahern said that NCAA communication officials will now report to the Pac-12 conference to make sure they’re aware of the new changes.

“Theoretically, the conference will talk to the UW to see if they want to make a similar alteration like the NCAA just did,” Ahern said.

UW assistant athletic director Carter Henderson said that the school has yet to be contacted by either the NCAA or the Pac-12.

“Our policy is staying consistent as of right now,” he said.

Henderson did add that the department is looking forward to being a cooperative partner if the UW is asked to change its policy.