Due to a NCAA rule amendment to the ban on field advertisements, Mississippi State will have to change this 2012 end zone (left) back to what it was in 2011 (right). Photo by: MSU athletics
May 2, 2013 9:03:59 AM
STARKVILLE - The Twitter hashtag will need to be taken out of the end zone at Davis Wade Stadium.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee sent a memo last month to the athletic departments of every university informing schools the banning the use of Twitter hashtags on football fields.
Mississippi State University was the first school to use a Twitter hashtag, a symbol used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet as a way to categorize messages, when they used the words "#HAILSTATE" during the 2011 Egg Bowl rivalry matchup against the University of Mississippi.
Chad Thomas, who at the time of the decision to paint the end zone in that fashion was Mississippi State athletics department's director of marketing, said in November 2011 that he hoped the end zone hashtag would reach beyond just football fans.
"It wouldn't surprise me if it does become a trend," Thomas said. "The fact is that one in four people now have smartphones in the United States, and that number is going to continue to grow. So why wouldn't you, if you're a sports team?"
According to the wording of the rules memo dated April 17 regarding field markings, Twitter hashtags now fall under a prohibition of "advertising on the football field" except for exceptions that include the following: NCAA logo, conference logo, college name and logo and title sponsor of a stadium and/or postseason game.
"Hashtags in football stadiums are okay, just not on the actual playing field," NCAA spokesperson Stacy Osburn said. "The Football Rules Committee clarified this rule because it wants as clean a field as possible."
MSU will likely now have to go back to using the full words of "MISSISSIPPI STATE" and "BULLDOGS" in either end zone. MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin joked about the ruling Wednesday evening on Twitter as a response.
"What if we promise to hashtag responsibly? #HailState #RingResponsibly," Stricklin tweeted referencing the cowbell compromise to Southeastern Conference legislation.
Rogers Redding, the national coordinator for college football officials, told USA TODAY in a phone interview that the NCAA now considers Twitter hashtags another form of advertisements.
"If they have stuff on the sidelines, or on the walls that go around the stadium, it's OK," Redding said. "The idea is just to preserve the integrity of the field and not open it up to other kinds of advertising."
The April 17 memo only handles college football as MSU also has "#HAILSTATE" on the playing floor in the out of bounds areas beyond the baselines at Humphrey Coliseum.
Following MSU's lead to embracing Twitter on its playing surfaces, the University of Michigan painted the hashtag "#GOBLUE" in two places on the field for its annual spring football scrimmage in 2012.
This ruling on field markings adds to the language that was already in place that states schools "may not obscure any portion of any yard line, sideline or goal line. Each line in its entirety must be clearly visible to the officials on the field. These (advertisement) markings may not touch or enclose the hash marks". Over the last two years MSU had to get a written waiver from the NCAA to black out the 36-yard-line to honor the late Nick Bell. MSU officials confirmed to The Dispatch that while this rule does prohibit that honoring of Bell without the waiver but since Bell was scheduled to graduate last year, the honoring of the late MSU player with a patch or any other way isn't scheduled.
If a school is looking for corporate sponsoring on the field of play, the NCAA has designated the end zone pylons as a way to do that. According to a new amendment created for the 2013 season, the pylons "may bear a manufacturer's logo or trademark which include Institutional logos, conference logos and the name/commercial logo of the title sponsor of postseason games". However, any such marking on the pylon may not extend more than 3 inches on any side.
Earlier in 2012, the University of Akron tried printing its Twitter handle on the back of player jerseys, but the NCAA quickly rejected that request.
According to the memo from the NCAA, the second part of the legislation is about a new change starting in 2013 to uniforms that states "Jersey numerals must be of a color that itself is clearly in distinct contrast with the color of the jersey, irrespective of any border around the number". The uniform rule change would've made the jerseys made by Adidas for MSU to wear against Texas A&M University last year in what was to honor the anniversary of the "Snow Bowl" game where the Bulldogs defeated A&M in the 2000 Independence Bowl.
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