Coach, Will u b My Facebook Friend?
When I first found out that Steve Sarkisian was Twittering, my immediate thought was sympathy for the poor athletic department lackey who had to pretend to be the new University of Washington football coach.
So imagine my surprise that Sarkisian—with some help—actually is doing the Tweeting (?), enlightening his 2,462 followers with these bon mots from spring practice: "What a great day for football, practice starts at 1 PM" and "Compliance and staff meeting this morning, cannot wait for practice, hope to see you out there."
Welcome to the new world of college football coaching, where marketing your team is just as important as making sure they're ready to play on Saturday.
The days of the mythical, omnipotent college football coach are just about over (JoePa and Bobby Bowden are the lone holdouts), leaving the new breed of successful coach as one who can balance on-field leadership and off-field self-promotion.
In addition to the Twitter account, Sarkisian also has a web page and a Facebook site (although it appears to be down right now).
It's a crafty move, no doubt picked up from media-savvy mentor Pete Carroll, to increase interest in a program whose status as top dog in the Seattle area has been rapidly fading due to the stench of the Tyrone Willingham era.
Sarkisian's multimedia blitz has a triple benefit for the Husky program: First, it gives current players and, most importantly, potential recruits a unique look at the man who will be their coach. It shows that he can speak their language, if you will.
Everyone wants to play for a cool coach, not some hard-ass who hasn't touched a computer in 15 years.
Second, it gives the rabid UW fanbase and alumni a reason to feel connected to the program again, after Willingham nearly drove everyone away with his aloof nature and clandestine approach.
Students can follow and interact with the coach, and the rich, crusty alums that make up the Tyee crowd will at least have a semblance of "insider" information to share, making them feel special again.
Third, it allows the media another avenue into the inner workings of the program. Sure, Sarkisian isn't going to be posting anything revelatory on any of his social media sites, but reporters won't turn their noses up at an easy outlet for his thoughts and for the minutae that may lead to stories down the road.
Of course, this is all fine and dandy now, when no football is being played and optimism reigns supreme. But will Sarkisian be as chatty when things aren't looking up for the Huskies ("Got taken 2 woodshed 2day by LSU. Epic Fail.") or if the program gets in trouble ("OMG! NCAA looking into viol8tions. Hate those guys.")?
After lagging behind the rest of the college football world for the last few years, it's nice to see the Huskies doing some forward thinking. Now, if only Shaqcould help Sarkisian punch up his Tweets, we'd be on to something.
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