Late Monday afternoon word "broke" (thanks to a tweet from ESPN's Darren Rovell) that Old Dominion head coach Bobby Wilder had banned his players from using Twitter year round, for as long as they are part of the program. Rovell had been alerted to a recently written article by a reporter in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia where ODU is located. According to the research, ODU's year round, multi-year ban of Twitter is a first in college football.
Late Monday night, I took the opportunity to type up my opinion on this topic.
I don't believe banning student athletes from using Twitter is the right thing to do for their personal and professional development. I recommended that programs establish standards for social media for their players (and staff), educate their team about social media and then monitor for compliance. Twitter itself and all of the ever evolving technologies that rely upon the platform have become a mainstream part of life for most 18-24 years olds and I feel that removing a person from that platform for five years could, and likely would, have a significant impact on that person's marketability when looking for a job straight out of college.
Although I could have waited to publish the article until Tuesday after calling Wilder to discuss my opinion with him, I did not. I published it right around midnight and went to bed. Knowing the reach that this site has within the coaching profession (coaches from over 640 colleges and universities visited the site today alone), I should have waited to publish the story until I had the opportunity to speak with Wilder.
As one might expect, Coach Wilder heard from a number of other coaches today about my take on his policy. He did the right thing and contacted me and we had a very good talk this evening. Coach Wilder shared some information that I was not aware of and I'd like to share some of that with you...
Wilder, who was hired to create the program at ODU five years ago, shared with me how he runs his program. He is very open with his players. From day one, he encouraged the captains of the team to write a set of rules for the team which they did. Ultimately Wilder has final say over everything within the program; but he said he has been very impressed with the leadership of the team (the captains). Each year they propose rules or modifications of rules along with their reasoning and every year Wilder has agreed with their proposals and the team has adopted those rules.
Two years ago, two players were having some issues spending too much time on Twitter and the captains of the team came to Wilder and proposed banning twitter for the team. With Wilder's consent, the captains took the proposal to the team; and while it wasn't unanimous, the team voted in favor of banning twitter year round for team members.
Wilder noted that every off-season the captains review the rules and can propose new rules, propose modifying or even deleting rules entirely. So in Wilder's opinion, this isn't necessarily a ban in perpetuity.
I pointed out that Twitter usage two years ago was virtually nothing compared to how much it is used today and Wilder understood that to be the case (he himself doesn't use Twitter or Facebook). Along those lines, Wilder said that some players have classes that mandate that they do projects on Twitter and thus those players have been allowed to create accounts and use them for class. Note, this is exactly what I was referring to in my original piece...Twitter is an assumed part of life for nearly all college students these days. Professors assume you have it and use it. Most Universities encourage their students to follow the University's various accounts to find out about breaking news and other updates from the University. Ask a teenager what his email address is and you'll get a blank stare...ask them for their Twitter handle and they rattle it off right quick. Heck, many Universities have now stopped issuing University email addresses.
My intent was not to criticize Coach Wilder, and I hope the article was taken that way. I, and every single one of the coaches that called me today about the article, respect Coach Wilder and believe he has done an excellent job of building that program. Off hand, I have to think that what they have done in their first 3+ seasons (30 wins, 8 losses) is likely better than any other startup at this level ever.
My intent was to let the profession know that I don't believe that banning Twitter year round is in the best interests of either the student athletes or your programs. In this day and age of technology (and yes with regards to technology, today is vastly different than two years ago), I don't believe banning players year round from using Twitter is in the best interests of the student athletes. Had Wilder made that decision in a vacuum, I would criticize that decision; but that's not the case here. In this case, the captains of the team came to the head coach with that proposal, and with his consent they took it to the whole team who then voted to adopt the plan the captains presented. Wilder pointed out that they would revisit this policy as well as every other policy during the off-season and the team might decide to change things. I personally think that they will; but my opinion doesn't matter. Whatever the team decides is what matters for ODU football and ultimately Coach Wilder will decide what is right for his program.
by: Scott F. Roussel - President - FootballScoop.com