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UNC and Twitter

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UNC held a panel discussion this morning at the Issues in College Sports Syposium on the use of Twitter. Everyone at THF knows that following the Tar Heel players Twitter account is one of the best sources of information on the team. It also yields great insight into the players themselves, especially in terms of personality. Anyway, the discussion revealed a couple of interesting nuggets about how UNC handles players tweeting. Via ACC Now:

When North Carolina opted to put out a statement that point guard Larry Drew II was not transferring a couple of weeks back, the sophomore asked team spokesman Steve Kirschner if he could delay the press release for a couple of hours.

"He said, 'I want to tweet out that I’ve got an announcement coming – I want to build some followers [on Twitter],'" Kirschner said this morning during the "Thou Shalt Not Tweet" panel at the Issues in College Sport Symposium at UNC's William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education.

It's just another example of how Twitter – the social media outlet that asks users to post what they are doing in 140 characters or less – has gone from fad to mainstream. It'a also another challenge for athletics departments who have to decide how to control information and how to educate athletes on using the forum.

(Kirschner, by the way, gave Drew an extra hour before sending out the press release; no word on how many extra followers the player ended up with during that time.)

Oh that crazy Larry Drew, always thinking about the big picture!

Kirschner said the basic rule of Twitter for UNC athletes was to not post anything you would not say if sitting in a press conference with the school logo behind you. Yeah, good luck with that one there Steve though I would love to see John Henson say "scrilla" in a press conference some time. The problem with such a policy is that it assumes these guys are always UNC basketball players. In a way they are via their being representatives of the university. At the same time they are also college kids who act like college kids. When sitting at a press conference discussing you role as a player on the basketball team, you obviously adopt a different mindset vs on Twitter where you will be more yourself.

What the article does not mention(and it may have been covered) is the idea that Twitter has blurred the access line between players and fans. There has already been recent example of a UK fan ripping UK player Daniel Orton on Facebook for his decision to enter the NBA Draft. If you follow any of the players you know there are times when certain fans rip them personally for their play on the court. Until the advent of social networking tools, players were largely protected from fan critiques save the ones at the games and on message boards or blogs. Now such attacks come directly to their Twitter or Facebook account. There is no shortage of stupid people willing to make a horse's rear end of themselves by trashing a nineteen year old kid who has probably done more and worked harder than the attacker has at any point in their life.

The good news coming from the panel is everyone believes banning the use of social networking tools by athletes is bad idea. The admonishment is they should continue to be careful and educated on proper use. It also means we will continue to have a steady stream of "scrilla" and "smh" to entertain us.