Much was made this weekend about the University of North Carolina missing 13 players for their game against LSU. While some of these players were suspended for academic issues, one of the more glaring absences was that of star defensive lineman Marvin Austin.
Austin, as well as some other athletes at other schools, have been under investigation for attending a party in Miami that may be linked to improper contact with a player agent. How did the NCAA get tipped off to this event? Through Marvin Austin’s tweets from a Miami club. CNNSI’s Stewart Mandel made some great observations about this incident including:
“the advent of social media — and the inevitable penchant of some young athletes to post incriminating messages or pictures to their Facebook or Twitter accounts — has been a boon to investigators.”
“Meanwhile, no program with high-profile draft prospects can breathe easily amid the current environment, where new rumors are percolating daily — and one regrettable tweet can send investigators scurrying to your campus.”
Collegiate athletic departments MUST take social media seriously. While some coaches such as Boise State head football coach Chris Petersen and Georgia head basketball coach Mark Fox have banned Twitter, such restrictive approaches may not be the most optimal solution to prevent problematic social media postings.
Although college athletes have a visible public profile, they nonetheless fall in age and social demographics that are high users of social media. Additionally, using these tools can be great ways to connect with fans and bolster support for a collegiate team. Finally, telling players they cannot use them, may actually incite propensity to post, as players rebel against such restrictive policies.
SMS helps collegiate athletic programs work with student-athletes to promote strategic social media use. Learning adept social media habits will foster strategic use as these players move into other spheres (including professional sports). Social media sites are valuable communication tools, and SMS helps collegiate athletic programs foster harmonious rather than adversarial social media management.