Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To Ban or Not To Ban? Education is the Answer

Leave it to the Head Ball Coach to cause a stir.

Over the weekend, South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier announced his players were banned from using Twitter, and a firestorm of opinion - from all sides - has ensued.

In an interview on the Dan Patrick Show today (Tuesday), Spurrier said of Twitter, "Nothing good can come of it" when asked about the ban.

That was it.

End of discussion ... as far as Spurrier is concerned.

Spurrier sounded like a person who didn't understand and didn't want to understand Twitter. And I get that. He's a football coach. Why should he care about the social media platform?

Banning Twitter is the easy, simple, stick-your-head-in-the-ground way to deal with the issue. It's not a solution, but a delay is curbing any potential problems.

(NOTE: Members of the media have differing opinions as well. Check out CNBC's Darren Rovell's piece and then compare it to CBS's Gregg Doyel's offering. Oh, and Maryland head football coach Randy Edsall says his players are allowed to tweet.)

Do 18 to 22 year-olds tweet some non-sensible stuff? Yes, yes they do. But you know what? I've seen some supposedly maturing tweeters post some "not-so-smart" items as well. Some do so on a daily basis, especially some "celebrities" on Twitter. (Tiger blood anyone?)

Banning kids from Twitter isn't the answer and won't keep them off. Ever heard of 'fake' accounts? Don't think fake accounts have much credibility or have much of a following? Think again.

In less than 24 hours, @SportsStache33 - a fake account mocking ESPN columnist Bill Simmons, went from a Klout score of 0 to 32. The account did not exist two days ago, and in less than a day, it has a Klout score of 32! Then there's @fakeNedYost, the alter ego of Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. This fake Twitter account boasts a Klout score of 66!

What this means is an account designed to appear like a legit account but takes a tongue-in-cheek approach can reach a large audience and carry influence. What's to stop a college kid from creating a fake account of his own?

The only real solution is education. At the vast majority of NCAA D-I schools, student-athletes go through media training, where they learn the do's and don't's of how to handle themselves in front of a camera and microphone. But in reality, very few athletes get interviewed, especially in football. The media focuses largely - and almost solely - on players in the skill positions on offense and any defensive standouts. Linemen almost never see the mic, and forget about it if you down on the depth chart.

But everyone on the team can have a voice on Twitter.

For that reason, I get a coach's rush to ban Twitter all together.

If you're going to go to the trouble to train them how to handle themselves in the spotlight of the camera and local radio microphone, why not take a few extra minutes to educating on how to behave in front of the mic that is never turned off - Twitter?

Fortunately, one NCAA D-I SID has gone through the trouble of compiling a list of 50 Twitter Tips for the college athlete. Must say, Tennessee's Tom Satkowiak covered just about everything here.


  1. I have to agree but this also goes in professional sports as well. The part time staffs are siloed and I guess they think this is a good idea. Education needs to happen on all levels in the sports industry. This is a stupid rule because they are adults and they have free speech. Give them the do's and don'ts and let them make their choices. You need brand ambassadors and the team is where it starts. Educate everyone and see how the camaraderie grows. This really irks me because I am a believer in education for everyone so the brand can grow and well as long as you don't tweet during the game or during the playoffs and you keep your head in the game. What is the problem?

  2. Sorry, but I gotta go with Spurrier on this one, but not because I agree with his reasoning. The time to talk about educating kids was about four years ago when this all started. Now, schools are so far behind the eight ball, this is their only hope...for now. Hopefully, right after coach made the announcement, there was a discussion with the SID about setting up some training for the kids so that maybe next season, they can lift the ban. I think the ban is only a symptom of the lack of foresight on part of the schools. The smart ones will work hard to get those athletes trained in media use so they don't have to institute such archaic rules. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening. For now, the kids have plenty of other less visible channels to vent. Part of responsible coaching for today's student-athlete has to involve some personal social media training. I would think the schools would be concerned about how irresponsible use might come back to bite them in the future for jobs and such--it's part of training these young kids to be responsible adults.

  3. Chris - I see and understand your point, and I agree to an extent. Part of my frustration with the latest banning is Spurrier's dismal of Twitter, like it's a fad that only the 'crazy kids do these days.' I also understand the cart blanch e banning of Twitter for a football team since the head coach has to oversee 100+ student-athletes. It could take a while to educate/train all of them. I'm fine with having the student-athletes go 'silent' in order to train them, but just to say 'no tweeting' and that's that, I'm not a fan of. At what point will the student-athletes be taught and learn responsibility? Best case scenario would be they already learned it at home. Hopefully, student-athletes (and all college students for that matter) learn responsibility by the time they leave college. Otherwise, their slip-ups could have far damaging affects.