College Athletes On Twitter Is (Mostly) A Bad Idea

Tod Kowalczyk and Toledo asked their players to not tweet during the season (October 22) - Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Leach made headlines yesterday when he announced his players were not allowed on Twitter. It's a great idea, and Toledo basketball is also keeping their athletes off social media, which is a good thing because Twitter is terrible.

On October 22, the University of Toledo men's basketball team began imposing an in-season Twitter ban. Players including AJ Mathew (@ajmathew03), Richard Wonnell (@WonnellSAE55), Delino Dear (@Lino_Man_Tha_G), Juice Brown (@JuiceLB_20) and Rian Pearson (@Rian_Pearson5) all spent October 21 tweeting their hearts out. When the clock struck midnight, not unlike a Cinderella story in basketball, their time as a group of tweeters was complete.

This went largely unnoticed, mostly because it was Toledo men's basketball and not Washington State football. Mike Leach carries more clout than Tod Kowalczyk on the Internet, and it struck a nerve as the team was struggling. Our sister blog CougCenter is all over this, and you get more information on that ban over there. Additionally I find myself in agreement with Andrew Sharp. If a coach doesn't want their players on Twitter, they have that right.

For the most part college athletes on Twitter are not unlike any college student on Twitter: they say whatever's on their mind, and usually what's on a 20-year-old's mind is raw, silly, sometimes obscene, and usually meant for private circles of friends. (I know I was that way.) And the price that comes with being the Big Man On Campus is that you become a spokesperson for the institution, so anything you say on the Internet — however innocent — can serve as an unofficial sentiment of the team or the school.

The above quote was widely circulated on Twitter yesterday, and I saw people such as Ball State head coach Pete Lembo and CMU athletic director Dave Heeke retweet it. My interpretation is that athletes should be allowed to go on Twitter and speak their minds, understanding that if something permeates the Internet, it could bring the wrong kind of attention. By now, D'Metrius Williams understands this. Or even to put it the other way: if a big game is lost because of a missed field goal by a freshman kicker, or a dropped pass, do you really want to give terrible fans an easy conduit to call this person all kinds of pejoratives?

(Although you can't really ban players from looking at Twitter, just posting to it.)

So to having them go dark on Twitter for the season, I think, is a decent compromise, and it had a neat side effect. The Rockets players knew the Twitter drop-off deadline and used it, it appears, to bond together. That may not have been the intent, but the design worked well and would be a great example for other teams who want to handle their PR internally.

There are a couple other ideas, none of which I've tested, such as rather than a blanket ban, maybe let only the seniors on Twitter. Or the captains. They're the designated faces of the team, whether they accept this reality or not, and must realize that there's no such thing as a private life for college athletes. Not in this world. Even the third-stringer on a MAC team has a degree of celebrity attached to it.

And really, you don't want to be on Twitter in the first place. It's full of terrible people who are out to get you, such as me. Seriously, have you read some of the things on @hustlebelt? It's disgusting. Stay away from it, for the sake of your program.

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