Coaches monitor athletes’ Twitter, Facebook profiles
With Twitter gaining popularity, many college athletes’ accounts have gone viral, and their social media pages have been thrown into the Internet spotlight.
But with that extra attention, some universities have begun monitoring student athletes’ social media activity to ensure athletes are not violating any rules, or showing their universities in a bad light. Larger athletic departments, such as the one at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have gone as far as outsourcing the monitoring of its athletes’ pages.
So far, MSU mostly relies on its coaching staff to check on athletes’ social media outlets, MSU women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant said. But MSU does work with the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics to ensure athletes follow NCAA standards, including recruiting rules, she said.
Merchant said although she does not have anything against her players using social media, as she is supportive of free speech, she does have an assistant coach monitor what the players are posting online to ensure they are making good choices. This means no profanity, discussion of players or opponents, or anything of graphic or sexual nature can be posted on the web.
This year, Merchant has not been as strict in punishing the players for violating these standards, but she plans to crack down on the team next year.
“Anytime there is an inappropriate posting, we are going to have the player print that, and we’re going to have them read what they wrote and have the team have a punishment,” she said, which might involve watching the rest of the team run laps.
The University of North Carolina outsources all of its athletes’ social media monitoring, both for athletic department standards and NCAA standards, to a private company that monitors athletes’ profiles, said Amy Herman, associate athletics director for compliance at University of North Carolina.
“We outsource with Varsity Monitor, who sends daily reports to the compliance staff,” she said in an email. “The compliance staff then forwards information to team monitors assigned for each sport.”
Some MSU athletes have used social media to promote other aspects of their lives off the field or court.
In January, MSU sophomore running back Nick Hill used Twitter to unveil a tattoo of a Spartan on his torso. His tweeted photo was shown on Yahoo, among other news websites. He said when he got his tattoo, his coaches were not upset with him for posting the picture on Twitter.
“I just put it up on Twitter and didn’t expect it to blow up the way it did,” Hill said. “I just wanted to show everyone I got a new tattoo.”
Merchant said she has not considered seeking outside help in monitoring her team, and she had about eight incidents throughout the season in which a player had posted something inappropriate online. When she comes across such posts, she asks the player to take it down immediately.
“I understand that’s the way kids communicate now, and I have a Twitter account and a Facebook account,” she said. “I think people really appreciate getting to know you beyond coaching and have a mini look into your life.”