UNLV’s rival New Mexico Lobos’ Coach Steve Alford has banned his players from using Twitter, and has forced current ‘tweeters’ to close their accounts. In addition, Coach Alford allows players to have Facebook accounts, but has informed them they would be monitored by the athletic department. As far as consequences for indiscretions, any violation would warrant disciplinary action, a third violation would warrant pulling that student-athletes scholarship, suspending them, or removing them from the team. Coach Alford has not explained his rationale for doing so, but it is implied and obvious that Twitter could be seen as a distraction, a portal for trouble, and accentuates the individual over the team.
Could this be a trend in college sports, and specifically could Coach Dave Rice implement a similar policy? The UNLV Athletic department is no stranger when it comes to student-athlete trouble caused by ‘tweeted’ comments. Take the case of UNLV Football wide-receiver Phillip Payne. In October of 2010 he was suspended by Coach Bobby Hauck due to tweeted comments critical of the coaching staff. He was suspended for two games, which would be the equivalent of 4-6 basketball games due to length of schedule.
UNLV Basketball has not yet experienced such problems, a statement which I don’t mean to imply that they will in the future. Coach Rice has not formally announced a policy in the manner that Coach Alford of New Mexico has, but it is possible that players have been encouraged to curtail Twitter accounts or at least what they are tweeting.
Take the case of UNLV player Anthony Marshall. He previously had an active account www.twitter.com/ANT_MARZ , that has since been closed. While I didn’t officially log when the account ceased to exist, I would guesstimate it was sometime in May. Sadly, I had meant to take a screenshot of the twitter page because it featured a cool new team photo of the Runnin’ Rebels on a chessboard motif – possibly a leaked new wallpaper of the team. If anyone has a copy of that, I’d like to have it and display it. UPDATE: I've been informed he closed that account and started another, http://twitter.com/#!/ant_marz3 (still with the cool background). Here is a twitter roster for this year’s UNLV Runnin’ Rebels:
Oscar Bellfield – None that I could fine
Anthony Marshall – http://twitter.com/#!/ant_marz3 - protected now
Chace Stanback - http://twitter.com/#!/ChaceStanback - very active, multiple daily posts
Justin Hawkins - http://twitter.com/#!/Hawk_31 - protected
Carlos Lopez – None that I could find
Kendall Wallace – None that I could find
Quintrell Thomas – None that I could find
Karam Mashour – None that I could find
Coach Dave Rice - http://twitter.com/#!/CoachDaveRice - Coach semi-active, every few days
Asst. Stacey Augmon – None that I could find
Asst. Justin Hutson – None that I could find
Asst. Heath Schroyer - http://twitter.com/#!/HSchroyer - Hardly active, post 1 time a month
Given that two of the four members of the coaching staff themselves have and use Twitter, it would be hypocritical to ban it, unless of course everyone including coaches were banned.
The potential for trouble in the context of UNLV Basketball and twitter is very real, and many hypotheticals could cause problems. Here are some purely hypothetical but possible indiscretions: Coach / player posts something that raises the eyebrows of the NCAA compliance investigators, embarrassing photos tweeted (i.e. Congressman Weiner, Brett Favre), player trashes coaches or their decisions (Phillip Payne), strategic information leaked (injuries, starting lineup change), or off-color slur (see Tim Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett). But are there any positives beyond a player communicating with his friends and fans?
The benefits beyond those rely on the fact that Twitter is an addictive technology. It is commonly said that the perfect invention is the one you never knew you needed, but now somehow can’t live without it. Many say Facebook and Twitter fall into that category. Many advertisers, stupidly, believe that Facebook and Twitter are some kind of second internet and they have to be a part of it or be killed by the competition. Why does Glidden paint feel that it is a good business strategy to try and get people to ‘like them on Facebook’? Tangent aside, many high school ballers have taken to Twitter like syrup to pancakes. Should the trend of banning Twitter accounts spread among schools, but not be outright banned by the NCAA, it could be a real boon to those universities who continue to allow it – a Shabazz Muhammad could say, no thanks I don’t want to give up Tweeting to play ball at your university. We also know Muhammad is a very active tweeter: http://twitter.com/#!/phenom15balla
This debate is likely to last awhile….