Here is a classic exchange I had with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz prior to the 2009 season.
The topic was Twitter.
Me: Do you have a Twitter account? (The social media tool is all the rage with college football coaches.)
Ferentz: No, absolutely no.
Gazette: Do you know what it is?
Ferentz: Yes, I heard it mentioned on the radio coming into work this morning, Mike and Mike in the Morning, (football commentator Mark) Schlereth and his tweets and Twitters. I think I even have my usage of tweet and Twitter down. You never say never, but if you see me with a Twitter account, just hit me with a baseball bat. Go ahead, take a whack at me.
I don’t think anyone cares if I have Wheaties or Honey Nut Cheerios. I don’t think anyone cares what I had for breakfast, what I chose this morning.
Enter LeVar Woods and Brian Ferentz.
Woods, who turns 34 next week, is kind of the “father” of Iowa football and social media. Woods runs or has run the @IowaFootball account on Twitter. He had a hand in building the gohawks.com site, which is as slick as it gets for Iowa football on the web. Woods also has a personal account and runs one for his football camp, which also includes this very well done website.
For Kirk Ferentz, this is win-win.
“That’s part ofthe package, it really is,” he said. “We say it jokingly, I’m not claiming to be [a social media expert].
“My interest level not really high. Certainly LeVar and Brian, Brian’s wife [Nikki], that’s what she does for a living and she’s pretty tapped in [a national account executive for CareerBuilder.com as far as Google knows].
“LeVar [@LeVarWoods] has great expertise and some of the guys who work in the office do, too. [You've chased TE/recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson's (@HawkeyeCoachEJ) "we have a new member of the family" tweets the last few years.] (Wide receivers coach Erik Campbell also is on Twitter, @ErikCampbell.)
Social media has embedded itself into the heart of football recruiting. It connects fans and recruits, for better or worse. You think the NCAA is going to hire a team to monitor the tweets/Facebook of every college football prospect in the country? Loooooooooosing battle.
Brian Ferentz, who turns 29 at the end of the month, spent the last four seasons having talent provided for him as a member of the New England Patriots’ coaching staff. Now, he’s the coach and the GM. Well, one of the nine GMs.
“Right out of the gate and I’ve been exposed to a couple things, social media being one of them,” Brian Ferentz said (@CoachBFerentz). “Not something that I had to fool around with in New England and I’ve learned what an effective communication tool it is. I’ve seen it firsthand. It’s eye opening.”
Kirk Ferentz’s eyes are certainly open to it. His opinion has changed.
“If you deny the importance of that, then you’re putting your head in the sand and it would really be foolish,” he said. “I think it certainly is part of what we are hoping to gain and learn from as we move forward.”
Save the baseball bat, though. You’ll never know if it’s Wheaties or Honey Nut Cheerios. Although, Kirk Ferentz did sort of give Brian permission to start @KirkFerentz.
“If he wants to do it for me, we have the same name, not fudging it too bad,” Kirk Ferentz said. “That’s part of the world we are in right now. Again, I think if we put our heads in the sand, we’re probably losing ground. Don’t want to do that.”