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Football players delete Twitter accounts at risk of suspension

5 February 2012 By Alex Glaze, Staff Writer 9 Comments

Shortly after Head Coach Rob Ambrose and the Towson Tigers were defeated in the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs, controversy emerged concerning a Tweet that a player on Lehigh’s football team sent out the night before the game.

Following an NCAA investigation, the player was suspended for the Mountain Hawks’ next playoff game against North Dakota State, a game they would ultimately lose.

That is when Ambrose got on Twitter and observed some of his own players who were active Tweeters.

“I watched about seven or eight players from Thanksgiving until Jan. 1,” Ambrose said. “If I were to have adhered to the letter of the law, I bet we would have suspended 50 percent of my team and at least 50 percent of the athletic department.”

So Ambrose decided to ban his players from Twitter until further notice.

“It’s not about controlling [the players],” Ambrose said. “It’s about safety. It’s about the appropriate uses of it and how not to be hurt by it. If these kids put something out there that is misinterpreted by the wrong person and blown up in the media, they are ruined for life. People are afraid to stand up and say anything. It is a privilege to play football. It is a privilege to represent the institution and it comes with responsibilities.”

Ambrose made his point clear to his team when they returned to campus following Winter Break.

At the team’s first meeting, he told his players about new the rule and shortly after many of the CAA champion Tigers sent out their final Tweets.

“We have to delete our twitter see u later tweets!!!!! #R.I.P.,” Jerry Rice Award-winning running back Terrance West Tweeted on Jan. 29.

“#Coachisreallymakingusdeleteallourtwitterstho,” quarterback Grant Enders Tweeted.

“How u even delete this ?” All-CAA safety Jordan Dangerfield Tweeted.

Players were not available to comment on being made to deactivate their accounts.

Ambrose, who has Tweeted from his own account more than 1,000 times, said his new rule is for the best interest of his athletes.

“Every member on this team doesn’t like all of our rules, but every member of this team understands the reason that we have rules is for them,” Ambrose said.  “Everything we do is for the benefit of the student athlete.”

The supervising of social networking sites is done on a campus level, though it can also serve as an information source in NCAA investigations, according to Emily Newell, NCAA postgraduate intern for public and media relations.

“Institutions need to ensure their personnel, student athletes and individuals affiliated with the institution are following the NCAA guidelines in place,” Newell said in an email. “If violations are discovered, it is the institution’s responsibility to report those violations and educate the individuals on how their actions could possibly affect the school and the eligibility of themselves/student-athletes. Failure to do so could result in more severe circumstances if not addressed.”

Towson’s 2011-2012 Student Athlete Handbook states, “the Department of Athletics does not place any restrictions on social networking sites (myspace.com and/or facebook.com).” It does not mention Twitter.

Director of Athletics Mike Waddell, an active user who has sent close to 8,000 Tweets, said that this is strictly a football program decision, not one of the athletic department.

“I don’t micromanage my coaches,” Waddell said.

If any player breaks this rule, they will be suspended indefinitely, according to Ambrose.

“When you take on the role of a Division I athlete, you do so in the name of the institution,” Ambrose said. “The institution is bigger than the person.”

On Feb. 3, The Harvard Crimson reported that assistant men’s basketball coaches at the Ivy league school are assigned to monitor players Twitter accounts. Schools such as the University of Texas at Austin, Louisiana State University and the University of Florida have installed tracking software called UDiligence to the Facebook and Twitter apps of their student athletes.

In 2010, the University of North Carolina football program banned Twitter following an NCAA investigation concerning players Tweeting that they were receiving improper benefits. The investigation eventually led to multiple player suspensions and the firing of former Head Coach Butch Davis.


9 Comments »

  • Wow said:

    #AmbroseEmpire

  • I don't micromanage my coaches? said:

    Waddell is an excellent micro-manager. That’s the biggest lie this guy has ever uttered.

  • banning social media is stupid... said:

    1. It negates the “teach-ability” of situations, and doesn’t allow student-athletes the opportunity to learn how to use the medium effectively.
    2. It negates any positive tweets to recruits, fan, etc.
    3. It’s probably illegal. Although it hasn’t been challenged yet in courts, this move is discrimination as it takes away the freedom of speech from student-athletes, while the general student body can tweet to their heart’s content. Plus there’s nothing in any student handbook that supports the act, so it’s not in any agreement the students signed.
    4. It’s hypocritical. Waddell, Ambrose, and other athletic staff have been pushed to be extremely active on Twitter. I’ve been told it goes so far as Waddell “suggesting” re-tweets and topics to tweet. So staff members are trusted to engage in the practice, but student-athletes aren’t allowed to?

  • SMH said:

    Smart move by Ambrose. To Tweet is not a right. He’ completely accurate in stating that it’s a privilege to play for the football team, and just as there are numerous other rules the team has to follows, this is just one of them. If they want to Tweet more than play football or attend Towson, they can do it elsewhere.

    It sucks, but it’s the truth. Deal with it.

  • Jeff said:

    Just a quick Google News search shows how people get in trouble for tweets (http://tinyurl.com/85hrqvq). I would rather that after a period of review, Ambrose creates strict guidelines for social media and allows everyone to use all social media again. The athletes need to understand that once you become an public figure, your actions are monitored by the public and you are not representing just yourself any longer. Allowing them to use social media with strict regulations will make things more difficult for Ambrose, but will reinforce that concept and that could be beneficial to the athletes in the long term.

  • Scott S. said:

    It may be a “privilege” to play football, but Freedom of Speech is a constitutional right. If I were faced with this position, I would say screw the team – No privilege is worth giving up one’s rights.

  • Eric Stoller said:

    My 2 cents on the matter:
    http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/social-media-and-collegiate-athletics

    Ambrose needs to focus more on teaching instead of banning. He does work for an institution of higher learning after all.

  • Professor Amos said:

    No one (not even a football coach) has the right to tell someone what they can or cannot say. These players are adults. Are they that untrustworthy and irresponsible that Coach Ambrose thinks he must ban their thoughts and ideas? “Teaching” censorship at a state university is simply unacceptable and more importantly, unconstitutional. How sad that football trumps constitutional rights at Towson. Terrible lesson for our students.

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