When scrolling through Twitter, you read a good amount of dumb tweets.
Some are insensitive, some grammatically abhorrent, some just completely unfounded in reason. Some college athletes are among that group.
That said, for all the dumb statements they could make, it’s even dumber for college coaches to ban them from using Twitter.
Steve Spurrier is the latest, and most prominent, NCAA coach to ban his players from using Twitter.
PR-wise it’s absolutely detrimental to a program.
Let’s say I’m an 18-year-old prospective student-athlete trying to choose a school. My friends and I have been using Twitter for more than a year, since it started to really catch on. We tweet at each other to share funny stuff and keep in touch. So I’m choosing between Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. Suddenly, coach Spurrier has told me, potential recruit, that I cannot use Twitter, which I have responsibly used since getting an account. I’m gonna start to think twice about coach Spurrier’s program. Am I really gonna be able to relate to him?
Now, it’s an overstatement to say a Twitter policy is going to make or break a recruit’s decision. But banning it is not sending a good message to these high school kids. I’d start to think in the back of my mind, if he’s not gonna let us use Twitter, what else won’t be allowed? How tight of a ship is it gonna be? Will we have any freedom? You have to think similar thoughts go through recruits’ heads.
These are 18-to-22-year-olds. Going to college is supposed to be a step toward independence and becoming your own person. But your coach is telling you that you can’t use Twitter.
Spurrier and other coaches, like Mississippi State basketball head coach Rick Stansbury, are telling you they trust you to win games in front of thousands of fans but not to use Twitter.
It’s like a dad giving his son the keys to a brand-new Mercedes, but then telling him he doesn't trust him to use the blender in the kitchen because he’s afraid he’ll break it.
These are young adults that you’re entrusting with your jobs yet, somehow they are not responsible enough to express themselves through Twitter. Yes, they sometimes say things they shouldn’t, like in the case of Mississippi State guard Ravern Johnson. He tweeted after a game:
"Starting to see why people Transfer you can play the minutes but not getting your talents shown because u watching someone else wit the ball the whole game shooters need to move not watch why other coaches get that do not make sense to me"
Forward Renardo Sidney re-tweeted that he and coach Stansbury apparently had enough, putting in place the ban. Now, you can understand his frustration, but instead of using this as a learning experience, it instead just elicits punishment.
The right thing to do is teach players when and when not to tweet, how to properly conduct themselves through social media.
If you’re going to take away Twitter, are you also going to ban Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ and the scores of other social media out there?
College athletes are young adults and most of them will be going into the working world in just a few years.
It would be a valuable lesson to learn that Twitter can be used professionally. Instead, the guys who are capable of tweeting responsibly are punished for not doing anything wrong.
Yes, these guys are the representing the Division-I institution. But if you’re willing to pay them the cost of tuition in a scholarship, then you should be confident enough that they will be a solid representation of your university.
Coaches need to stop treating these guys like kids who can’t have the training wheels taken off.
Give them a chance to be adults, let them be like every other college kid who can have a Twitter and if they mess up, take it away then.
Just putting down an outright ban on it is a very poor direction in which to go in this social-media saturated world.