Urban Meyer Shows Lack of Leadership by Banning Ohio State Players from TwitterJanuary 3, 2012
Ohio State Football head coach, Urban Meyer made the bold move today of banning the social media site, Twitter, for the OSU Football team.
By "bold," I mean idiotic, overreaching, nonsensical and draconian—same difference right?
It is not unusual for a new head coach to impose new rules onto a program as he takes over, and it is not unusual that social media has become such a reality in our time that rules might accompany its use.
Being a college football athlete means that one's life is already governed by a host of rules. Many major universities employ massive compliance offices to help both players and coaches abide by all of the many rules. Ohio State, for the most part, ignored those offices during the Jim Tressel era, but 2012 should bring about change there as well.
So, a "Twitter rule" is just one more rule. This rule, however, goes too far.
College football players already have rules about academics. The rule is not, however, against going to class so that the athlete can't get any bad grades. Schools also have rules against alcohol and drug use, not rules against having friends so that an athlete will never be tempted. Teams have curfews, they don't lock the athletes up before games.
To put it another way, leadership is about helping these young men make better decisions as they grow into adulthood. Leadership is not about removing all possibility of making mistakes so that the end results in mindless drones who abide by the coach's every desire.
It all comes down to the fact that one day—whether it's a coach, parent, teacher, whatever—those kids are going to have the freedom to make their own choices. If they've never had that freedom before, kids will abuse it.
How can young men be expected to act like adults when you're treating them like children?
NBC's Darren Rovell (a Twitter maven in his own right) went to Twitter to call out the rule:
"Ohio State players could learn more about life, job skills on social media than in most of their classes."
Will Rovell may be overstating his case, the core message is true—many athletes, especially those who go on to the NFL—will never fully utilize the facts they learn in biology, literature, calculus, etc. Rather, the lessons they need to learn is how to properly deal with fans, media and fellow athletes.
Lost in the message Meyer is sending—that Twitter is evil—is the fact that many college and professional athletes have had tremendous success on Twitter. Drew Brees would be a superstar with or without social media, but would Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely?
The success of Twitter can even be traced right back to the Ohio State campus where Jared Sullinger was named one of Sports Illustrated's "Twitter 100" of 2011:
"The talented sophomore retweets nasty posts about himself, and has the most refreshingly honest feed of any college athlete."
None of this is to say that Twitter can't be a huge distraction or that it shouldn't be monitored closely by schools. Yet, if this rule is representative of the type of leadership Urban Meyer will display at Ohio State, parents should think twice before sending their sons to him.