#MarchMadness: If the coaches can tweet, shouldn’t the players be able to?

March Madness Tweet

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Being that we have just entered into one of the best months for college basketball and, dare I say, the best month for college sports in general, I couldn’t help but be fascinated with a local team’s coach who tweeted during halftime. Colorado State University’s coach Tim Miles took the Q&A into his own hands and sent out this tweet regarding the first half of the game:

March Madness TweetMashable’s latest article comments on this untraditional response for a coach and much to my surprise he was not only celebrated for his social media savviness, but CSU continued on to beat nationally ranked UNLV.  Coming from a highly celebrated basketball school (KU Jayhawks), I was delighted to see someone in the sports realm receiving praise for tweeting during a game, and secretly hoped that KU’s coach, Bill Self, may himself partake in this new trend.

But many questions begin to arise “Would this sort of engagement take away from the integrity of the sport; Is it only professional sports that need to be cautious about their players and team members tweeting or should college sports fall into the same category; and, are the risks involved with giving the players a voice worth the viable engagement with their audience?”

We’ve all heard the news about different athletes being scorned for re-hashing their feelings on and off the court: (Chad Ochocinco) or even Indy driver Brad Keselowski.  For this reason and more, the NFL doesn’t allow in-game tweeting and its current policy prohibits players or other team personnel from using their cell phones at all during the competition. At the other end of the spectrum, other sports actually encourage tweeting during tournaments such as the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association).  A somewhat different situation, but the basic point is that in-game tweeting and social media is and will become an issue that all professional sport leagues will have to address, and not just for the players. Coaches and staff members will need to evaluate their role with this emerging technology and how they will engage with it.

Tim Miles has been congratulated on his use of social media and kudos to him for straying from the more traditional aspects of coaching. But is it appropriate that coaches can tweet during the games if the players, be they college or professional, cannot use their cell phones during an athletic event? In my opinion, yes, it’s completely appropriate.  One of the coaches’ biggest responsibilities is to express their opinions to the media, before the game, during and after, win or lose. What they say reflects on the team, their endorsements and in this case, the school they represent. With such a heavy weight on their shoulders, having a player tweet their ‘feelings’ could result in more negative backlash than it’s worth.  You’re accountable for what you put out on Twitter no matter who you are. As much as I love my college athletes, I’ll be the first to admit they don’t always make the best decisions, on or off the court.  Placing such responsibility in their hands could result in a lot of bad press and distracted players.

From personal experience, I know a ton of people who chime in to almost every tweet posted from a fake athlete’s account during a game, commenting about their performance (good or bad) or how the referees ‘wronged’ them. But I could imagine the sort of presence real athletes would have if they started tweeting during games. Although I might enjoy a sly comment from my favorite basketball player after a nice free throw or superb dunk, the bottom line is, if we are losing and you’re tweeting, you better expect some serious backlash. Overall, unless some serious regulations are made for players and coaches alike, we might all just have to stick with our favorite pseudo-athlete accounts and just pretend like we know exactly what our players and coaches would have said.

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