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NCAA Banned Hashtags from the Playing Field

Big time college sports result in big time exposure for college programs, but the NCAA is cracking the whip.

The NCAA sent out a bulletin, advising school officials of new rules changes regarding markings on the field of play. The new rules ban advertising, and allow just a limited number of non-standard markings on the field (including NCAA, School and conference logos), and none of the markings allowed can obscure any lines that must be part of the playing surface.

Specifically outlawed in the rules' advisory is the use of social media-related markings. Meaning that a school can't print a hashtag on their field to encourage TV viewers or patrons in the stands to tweet about "#NovaNation" or let them know to follow "@NovaAthletics" for the department's official account.

Villanova's football conference-mate Towson, is one of the schools that will be significantly affected by the rule.

The specific mention of social media seems somewhat ill-timed with the booming growth of services like Twitter and Instagram, as well as the continued popularity of Facebook and other sites. Schools are investing more and more into the social media realm as a way to reach out to the younger audiences that they hope to grab the interest of from both an athletic and academic angle.

Even reaching out to young alumni via social media is growing in importance for schools. With more mobile and internet-centric culture becoming prevalent, finding new ways to draw those interest groups into a schools' online presence is vital -- but this rule hampers that.

The new rule currently only applies to football, where fields haven't been overly crowded with advertisements and social media in most cases. In basketball, vinyl logo stickers, ads and social media markings have begun to crowd the courts of many schools and, most-importantly, at preseason tournaments and sponsored neutral-site events.

It isn't unthinkable that the drive to push this rule into the realm of college basketball as well. The vinyl logos on many courts have lead to slipping and injuries, and have turned the playing surface into a wooden version of the Yellow Pages. The NCAA Tournament has already moved toward painting logos onto their court surfaces (since 2009) to ease the pain, but the early-season tournaments and events still seem to cram sponsor logos onto the court. Could that go away?

In any event, the new football rule applies to all levels of NCAA football, so Villanova will have to make sure that its FieldTurf in the stadium is compliant with the regulation -- and that includes making sure that the "V" logo at midfield does not obscure the 50 yardline.

The NCAA also released new rules for football uniforms and playing equipment. Starting this season, tinted visors on football helmets are no longer allowed in the college game, and towels must be solid white and are limited in size. Starting in 2014, FCS schools must have numbers on their jerseys that clearly and distinctly contrast from the jersey color as well.

They have also banned cameras from being used in the team areas of the field for any purpose.