Universities Track Athletes Online, Raising Legal Concerns

Monday, April 2, 2012
The business plan of Varsity Monitor is simple. Major universities like North Carolina, Nebraska and Oklahoma pay $7,000 to $10,000 a year and Varsity Monitor keeps an online eye on their athletes. Among the services the company and others like it provide is a computer application that searches social media sites that athletes frequent, looking for obscenities, offensive commentary or words like “free,” which could indicate that a player has accepted a gift in violation of N.C.A.A. rules. “Every school, we work to customize their keyword list,” said Sam Carnahan, the chief executive of Varsity Monitor, which has offices in Seattle and New York and also provides educational programs to universities. “We look for things that could damage the school’s brand and anything related to their eligibility.” Yet what may look to some like a business opportunity, and to universities and their athletic departments like due diligence, appears to others to be an invasion of privacy.

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