For those of you not familiar, students who join the site get personal pages on which they can post pictures and personal information such as cell phone numbers and class schedules.
One year ago, at the beginning of my senior season, Loyola University Chicago went as far as to forbid its athletes to belong. "That would be like banning rock 'n' roll in the '50s," Facebook director of marketing Melanie Deitch told USA Today. Almost two-thirds of the nation's college students have accounts, the company says.
In the same USA Today article, Loyola athletic director John Planek says he ordered athletes off the site to protect them from gamblers, agents or sexual predators who could learn about them, or contact them, through their profiles.
"I know it's not a popular decision," Planek says. "This is a safety issue and a well-being issue" for athletes.
It is also an image issue for schools. Lots of students and student-athletes have profiles they could let their mothers see; many more don't. Schools could be deeply embarrassed if underage star athletes are seen on a website in incriminating photographs.
Students enjoy Facebook for its hip sense of community and immediacy. They think of it as a playful site for their peers' eyes only when it is actually just a few mouse-clicks from public consumption on the World Wide Web. Athletes often sign a code of conduct as a condition of their scholarships and, as a result, must be additionally careful of what they post. A number of athletes have been reprimanded and, in some cases, even kicked off their respective teams.
What about students' First Amendment rights? Can universities really tell them what they can post on Facebook — or that they can't be on it?
(Photo provided by Getty Images/Jamie Squire)