A decade ago, controlling college footballs players' access to the media was quite a bit easier. Coaches only needed to sequester their players away from the glare of cameras and microphones. Today, with nearly every player carrying a smart phone with Twitter and Facebook at their fingertips, keeping a lid on the program is nearly impossible.
It seems every week during the season, there's a new story about a college football player sticking his cleats in his mouth over something really dumb from insulting bowl host cities to more benign tweets like congratulating a recruit who has committed to the program.
Coaches and athletic departments are struggling to catch up in this age of digital media, but there's one simple step any coach can make (and some have): banning a player from speaking to the media, in person or through Twitter.
With spring football starting up across the nation, the media is back in college towns. The battle to keep focus on the field and out of the newspapers begins anew. Head coaches might be able to make their own lives a little easier by heeding our advice and banning the following 10 college football players from any contact with the media this spring.
College football players aren't all Rhodes Scholars, but this particular PR faux pas is probably one of the most insanely boneheaded things we've seen in quite a while.
The error made by Demarkus Perkins, a sophomore defensive back, is probably not unprecedented in the history of college football recruiting: he took a recruit to a strip club. It's one thing to violate NCAA rules in a pretty stupid way, but it's something completely different to then take to Twitter to brag about it.
Not long afterward, Perkins' Twitter account was deleted, although damage was already done.
Perkins obviously doesn't have any qualms about blurting things out without giving any thought to the consequences and programs like FIU have enough trouble already.
We can excuse Tony Burnett for his ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment tweet shortly after learning USC would be playing Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve. He clearly wasn't thrilled, saying on Twitter, “Georgia Tech? El Paso, Texas!? New Years Eve? FML.”
Not the smartest thing in the world, but he basically stated what every USC player and fan was probably thinking.
You would think, though, that the rest of the USC football team would have learned a thing or two from the criticism that followed. But you would be wrong.
A few weeks later while in El Paso, Trojan Leonard Williams tweeted his own displeasure with the city of El Paso. “Out here in El Paso. [Expletive] city but glad I can enjoy this moment with the USC family.”
Clearly, Williams can't be trusted to censor himself, even after seeing exactly what can happen when a teammate makes milder comments. Lane Kiffin and the USC Trojans are going to have enough on their media platter this spring. Keeping Williams under the radar can't do anything, but help that situation.
With all due respect to some of the greats that have played in the conference in the past, today's MAC just isn't the place for the best and the brightest on the football field.
Case in point, Kent State's Julian Durden. This 18-year-old Pittsburgh native was recently arrested in possession of marijuana, and—wait for it—a stolen credit card.
The good news for Durden is that he can clear his record by keeping his nose clean. In the meantime, however, he's been suspended from the team.
It doesn't take much to make the news in a town of under 30,000 people, so the less interaction Durden has with the press this spring, the better.
We've thus far focused on players that have done or said something so mind-numbingly stupid that keeping them under a gag order seems like a smart, viable option for the program. Now, we're going to the other extreme.
Since the 2013 Sugar Bowl, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been the player many have named as a Heisman contender for the 2013 season.
There's no reason to think Bridgewater can't or won't be a frontrunner come the start of the 2013 season and it seems as if the only thing that could possibly happen between now and September to distract the media from Bridgewater's impending greatness is his mouth. Bridgewater isn't known for media blunders and all indications tell us that he's an all-around good guy.
But, if you're Charlie Strong, the head coach of a team long thought to be down-and-out in a conference believed to be on its death bed, you'd try to do everything in your power to keep the Bridgewater express from jumping the rails. Keeping Bridgewater out of the bright media glare certainly can't hurt.
There's really not much too this one. Cade Foster hasn't been blowing up Twitter, insulting anyone in the press or gotten himself suspended for anything really, really stupid.
But after three really, really, really lackluster seasons as Alabama's field goal kicker (13-for-27 in his career), Foster would do well to avoid any reporter from the state of Alabama.
He could also spend the extra time practicing.
Hugh Freeze had a bumper crop down in Mississippi this spring. Much to the surprise of everyone, the Rebels took one of the nation's top recruiting classes (No. 7 according to Rivals.com), which included No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche.
Nkemdiche already had ties to Mississippi (his older brother is a current Ole Miss football player) and his family did little to hide their preference for Ole Miss.
There's nothing particularly wrong with that, but it does open to door to questions about just how much contact Ole Miss recruiters had with Robert through the process. Those questions probably wouldn't lead to much, unless of course Robert has a hard time coming up with the answer—or worse, comes up with the wrong answer.
There's also the little flub Nkemdiche had on National Signing Day, as many recruits do. When announcing his choice of college, Robert named “the University of Ole Miss” as his choice. There's also that little nugget about how the Ole Miss coaching staff had to fake their reaction to the announcement, as they already had Nkemdiche's letter of intent in hand.
At this point, it's probably best to let Nkemdiche fade into the obscurity of his freshman summer and let everyone forget the minor missteps before they snowball into something more worrisome.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron has already done something no other quarterback in the BCS era has ever done: guide his team to back-to-back national championships. McCarron will be back in Tuscaloosa to try and make in three in a row, but there's a long way between now and next January.
In the meantime, Alabama football is going to have to deal with a collectively swollen head on top of its already swollen ego.
There's certainly nothing wrong with being proud of your team's accomplishments and McCarron has been every bit the gracious winner over the past couple of seasons. But success has a way of breeding a sense of invincibility—something Nick Saban has warned against—which in turn can lead to pretty stupid comments to the media.
Yes, even Alabama can suffer PR problems from time to time. The Saban dynasty isn't immune to occasional stupidity. But Saban runs one of the tightest ships around, and keeping his stars focused on 2013 will be best served by muzzling every one of them until their first official press conference next fall.
Sometimes it can take freshmen awhile to acclimate to college life. That includes living on your own, often for the first time, finding dining halls and restaurants, learning the mass transit system and getting to class.
But it's the academics that seem to have really tripped up Ohio State's Cardale Jones. Apparently, not only is Jones having trouble adjusting to going to class, but he doesn't really see the point.
Jones posted this beauty on his Twitter feed back on October 5: “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”
Apparently no one told Jones he was attending one of the Midwest's premiere public universities for free and that he's a college football student-athlete.
Sure, there's been plenty of argument over college football players and their roles in the academic world of universities, but we highly doubt Ohio State administration—or head coach Urban Meyer—appreciates a freshman drawing attention to the fact that he thinks his attendance in classes at The Ohio State University is “pointless.”
What could Jadeveon Clowney, the All-Universe defensive end, have possibly done wrong? Nothing.
Clowney is as close to the perfect defensive football player any coach could hope to have on his team and there's little left for the media to talk about other than nonsense.
Recently, it was suggested Clowney sit out his junior season lest he go the way of teammate Marcus Lattimore or USC's Matt Barkley—that is suffering an injury just prior to entering the NFL. Not only was that idea a non-starter for both Clowney and head coach Steve Spurrier, but Clowney dismissed it out of hand, tweeting “I'm playing lol.”
Assuming everything goes as planned, Clowney is a virtual lock for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft next spring. But before he gets there, he'll need to prepare to get through another grueling SEC season.
Media suggestions that he shouldn't play won't do anything to help that happen.
Since becoming the first freshman in college football history to take home the coveted Heisman Trophy, Manziel has been on a whirlwind tour of, well, everything.
Manziel was on the sidelines of the BCS National Championship Game—in which his team wasn't playing. He was later spotted in Las Vegas, flashing way too much cash for the NCAA not to notice.
Manziel then began appearing around the nation in coveted—not to mention very expensive—courtside seats at NBA games. Maybe Mike Stoops was right about Manziel being “pretty good” if Texas A&M can “keep him eligible.”
So far, Manziel has effectively kept his mouth shut. But he doesn't need to speak to really screw things up for himself and the Aggies. If a picture is worth a thousand words, Manziel's 2013 offseason is getting close to having enough pages to fill an entire NCAA report. He'll only make it worse if head coach Kevin Sumlin starts allowing him to talk to the press.