Twitterverse remains Hawkeye-less

Twitter ban could be tricky in the hyper-me world of social media and sports

Marc Morehouse
Published: August 2 2012 | 6:42 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 10:34 pm in
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IOWA CITY - In a 2009 interview, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz dismissed Twitter. No one would care if he had Wheaties or Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast, he said.

He added, "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."

It's now 2012. Twitter and sports are happily married with a long, lush life ahead of them. Twitter is part of the college football recruiting landscape. Prospects set up accounts on the social media microblog and, if their account is unlocked, are subject to the slings and arrows and/or adulation of anyone of the 250 million active users who click "follow" on their account.

Coaches, including Iowa assistants Brian Ferentz, Eric Johnson, LeVar Woods and Erik Campbell and strength coach Chris Doyle, have made the jump. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has 18,436 followers. His parody account, @BeingBielema, has 3,958 followers.

Oh yes, there's a @NotKirkFerentz (1,162 followers), but the real flesh-and-blood Kirk Ferentz remains Twitterless.

This spring, however, Brian Ferentz, hired as the team's offensive line coach in February, pondered aloud on a tweet if Iowa fans didn't think his dad should join. (We should point out here that Brian is 29 and Kirk turned 57 this week. Age is most definitely a factor.)

Last week at Big Ten media days, Kirk Ferentz asked that the bat he's struck with be made of styrofoam.

"Iím sure that everyone is sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the arrival mainly because the things that get tweeted are so insightful and so interesting," said Ferentz, with every syllable slathered in sarcasm. "I could see why they would want to know what I might have to say."

Can you feel the excitement?

Before we get much farther into Kirk Ferentz's misgivings with Twitter, let's track some technological progress.

Earlier in his 14-year run at Iowa, Ferentz used to joke about not being able to work the internet or e-mail. Ferentz does use the internet. This was confirmed by his son, James, who goes into his third season as Iowa's starting center this fall. He doesn't have a DVR, but there is internet.

"They were going without cable for a couple of months at the house," James said. "Some cable dispute. Mom [Mary] can be pretty stubborn sometimes."

The big reveal is Kirk Ferentz and his affinity for the iPad. In the last year, Iowa football started incorporating the Apple tablet device with its video scouting program. Each coach received an iPad.

"He likes using that for his newspapers now, so he can do the digital thing," James said. "He might've been afraid of it at first, but now I'm sure he sees there are so many benefits. I think he's slowly coming around."

Back to Twitter.

Don't expect to see Iowa players allowed on Twitter anytime soon. Ferentz was asked a couple of times about social media last week. The Twitter ban remains solidly in place.†Some programs are migrating to this school of thought, but a straight ban isn't industry standard.

"I donít think we have to make a national announcement on that, but thatís just been our policy," Kirk Ferentz said. "Then, Facebook, MySpace, YourSpace, MyFace, all that stuff, I think itís probably going too far for me to say you canít do that -- and unrealistic -- but we sure have tried to educate our players to just think about what theyíre doing and that itís part of their DNA once they post something.

"Itís just like if they make a comment to the media. Theyíre responsible for that. Just like any actions you take, youíre responsible for those.

"My concern as a parent or coach is sometimes people donít think about what the long-range ramifications might be, as a player and, more importantly, trying to go out and get a real job in the real world. NFL people look at all that stuff, too. They look at all that stuff in the NFL process.

"Itís an educational process and I think players are smarter now than they were five years ago. It just really opens the door to get in trouble really easily. We all do things we wish we wouldn't have done, and thatís just one more avenue to do that."

Right on cue and very fresh in the news is Florida State and Twitter.

Sophomore defensive back Tyler Hunter went off on Twitter rant after a traffic stop in Tallahassee, Fla. During the course of it, he included a rap lyric that called for killing police.

Florida State players are now banned from Twitter.†At ACC media days, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher stopped short of saying the ban would be permanent.

Kids like to tweet. Kids happen to be a college football coach's target market. So, it's not something college coaches want to advertise.

Case in point on the "kids like to tweet" front: Incoming Iowa freshman Laron Taylor has an account that listed 56,289 tweets since he joined in November 2010. That's an average of 91 tweets a day. He reported to camp on July 8 and has since stopped tweeting.

"You never say never, so Iím not saying weíll never change our policy, but if that really becomes a determining factor for a guy picking our school or another school, he probably wouldnít function real well in our program anyway so weíll just live without him," Kirk Ferentz said. "I may eat those words down the road, weíll see. Iíll Twitter it if I do, or if we switch that."

That last thought was an 11 from Ferentz on the sarcasm-o-meter.

Quarterback James Vandenberg, James Ferentz and cornerback Micah Hyde were the three seniors Iowa brought to Big Ten media days. Twitter was just sort of bubbling in 2008 when Vandenberg and Ferentz took a redshirt. It's unclear when Kirk Ferentz enacted an official Twitter ban, but no Iowa player has ever developed much of a following during their Hawkeye days.

We don't know if these three were banned from Twitter before they even started, but Vandenberg and Ferentz didn't care either way.

"Oh God, I want to tweet so bad," Vandenberg said with, yes, just a hint of sarcasm. "I barely get on Facebook let alone Twitter. I don't see that in my near future."

James Ferentz pleaded ignorance. He's banned from it, so he hasn't taken the time to figure out what Twitter is.

"I'm cut from a different cloth than most guys," James said. "I don't think much of Twitter."

He did say, however, that he would like to see what one of his favorite musicians, Shooter Jennings (@ShooterJennings), would have to say on Twitter.

Vandenberg believed explosion in social media is tied to technology, specifically smartphones and even more specifically the iPhone.

"The iPhone, holy Lord, I gotta get me one of those, apparently they can do everything for you," said Vandenberg, sarcasm mode only disengaged before he weighed in on what social media has done to recruiting since 2008.

"It makes recruiting out of control," Vandenberg said. "I'm so glad I'm not part of that circus. I literally do not know how our coaches, and coach [Kirk] Ferentz in general, recruit with as much as they coach and as much as they're with us and flying around the country, that's a task. All this new technology makes it even more intense.

"They're all doing it, so you have to do it. That's definitely something, you're just trying to top the next person. It's something that's definitely elevated the whole recruiting world for sure."

Hyde was the odd man out in Chicago.

"Wait, they said no, they don't care that much about it, right?" asked Hyde, who was informed that he was the last one polled on the topic. "The Jameses would say that."

Yes, Hyde would like to tweet. He would like to tweet with fans and friends back home.

"I'm not saying we need to get on Twitter, but yeah, I would like to tweet," he said. "It's a new day-and-age type of thing. It'd be fun. It's a team policy, so we can't."

Friends and family from back home in Fostoria, Ohio, quiz him about it all the time. It gets kind of annoying, he said. It goes a little like this:

"I have friends back home who always say, you would have so many followers," Hyde said. "First, I saw we can't. Then, they ask why and I say it's just team policy.

"First thing they say, is OK, that doesn't make sense. You can have Facebook, but you can't have Twitter? OK, I'm not going into detail why I can't tweet, just know that I can't tweet. Just leave it at that. Don't try to make me mad about it, just know that I can't tweet."

Your time is coming, Micah.

Every January, after Iowa's bowl game, a few senior players migrate to Twitter. This year, Marvin McNutt (Eagles), Shaun Prater (Bengals) and Jordan Bernstine jumped in with both feet. NFL Hawkeyes Tyler Sash (Giants) and Adrian Clayborn (Buccaneers) have massive followings. Mitch King (Texans), Tony Moeaki (Chiefs) and Brandon Myers (Raiders) are out there among others. (Two notables not yet on Twitter are Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Ricky Stanzi and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Pat Angerer.)

"Iíll let them Twitter their lives away after theyíve played their last game," Kirk Ferentz said. "If they want to Twitter away for the next 60 years, have at it."

Of course, those seniors let the underclassmen know about their freedom to tweet. They kind of rub it in.

"I remember last year when Marv and Bernie [Jordan Bernstine] were done, the first thing they did -- and it was such a little thing to brag about, anybody can have Twitter -- but they were just talking about us," Hyde said. "In the Iowa lockerroom, it's a huge thing. It's like a new man code. You're not an adult until you're able to get Twitter."

Hyde has his first tweet planned. He laughs as he describes the scenario.

"Right after the bowl game, no doubt," he said. "I'm in the lockerroom and I'm getting my phone out and I'm going to tweet how big of a win that was.

"First tweet is going to be the best tweet, right?"

[EXTRA QUOTAGE: This is the cutting room floor, basically. I spend a lot of time transcribing digital audio. So, instead of deleting, why not publish here? Can't vouch for neatness, but here this is just in care you're interested.†Side note: I (@marcmorehouse) have 60,214 tweets since 2008. That's 41.2 over the course of 1,464 days. Sportswriters aren't far behind teenagers.]

James F

I'm cut from a different cloth than most guys, I think. I don't think much of Twitter. I don't know if that's because we're not supposed to be on it, so I don't know how it works, like I can't figure it out. I just love it because my dad is so anti-Twitter and it's against team policy and now my brother Brian, he's all over the Twitter. He's tweeting this and this and this. So, I like to give him a little crap about that. I don't think much of it. I really don't know how it works, I'm trying to figure it all out. -- I would like to see what Shooter Jennings would be tweeting. See what he has to say.

on dad being a technophobe Does he use the internet? -- The coaches got iPads a few months ago, he likes using that for his newspapers now. So, he can do the digital thing. He might've been afraid of it at first, but now I'm sure he sees there are so many benefits. I think he's slowly coming around. -- DVR at home -- They were going without cable there for a couple of months at the house. My mom was, I don't know, she had some dispute with Mediacom. She can be pretty stubborn. [Join the club on Mediacom.] -- Sirius -- Yeah, he loves it. -- You just don't take the time to learn how to do stuff -- That's what it is, I think the biggest thing with him is taking the time to learn how to use it. He just doesn't have the time to learn how, but once he learned how to use the iPad, he obviously enjoys using it for the newspaper and stuff. For him, I think it's just finding the time to learn how to use stuff. The big thing about Twitter, my guess is, I'm 23 and I still can't explain exactly how it works, so I could only imagine that he's 1,000 times more confused. -- Next bridge for cfb recruiting, comm and tech -- That's another thing I think Twitter has going against it, from my dad's point of view. It's gotten a lot of people in trouble from things they tweet. It puts them in hot water. It doesn't bring a lot of benefits to college kids who are put in position to make bad decisions as it is.

JVB

Oh God, I want to tweet so bad. I barely get on Facebook let alone Twitter. I don't see that in my near future. -- Attention, attention. -- I think it's something that's definitely changed. It's way different now than when I was first at Iowa. I don't even know if Twitter was around in my first year at Iowa. Maybe second year? That's just the evolution of technology. The iPhone, holy Lord, I gotta get one of those, apparently they can do everything for you. Incredible. It's just how technology is moving. It makes recruiting out of control. I'm so glad I'm not part of that circus. I literally do not know who our coaches, and coach Ferentz in general, recruit with as much as they coach and as much as they're with us and flying around the country, that's a task. All this new technology makes it even more intense. -- They're all doing it, so you have to do it. That's definitely something, you're just trying to top the next person. It's something that's definitely elevated the whole recruiting world for sure.

Hyde

Wait, they said no, they don't care that much about it, right? Honest answer, it's a team policy. I'm not saying we need to get on Twitter, but yeah, I would like to tweet. It's a new day-and-age type of thing. It'd be fun. It's a team policy, so we can't. -- Sash, marketing himself -- Just interacting with fans, you can get on there and talk to fans. We're Big Ten athletes, but we're humans, too. We kind of want to see what's out there and talk to some people. Call it marketing yourself, but at the end of the day, you just want to communicate with other people. But no, I'm not dying to get out my phone right now, open an account and start tweeting. -- how soon will you be on twitter after the bowl game -- Right after. There's no doubt. I'm in the lockerroom and I'm getting my phone out and I'm going to tweet how big of a win that was. First tweet is going to be the best tweet, right? -- I remember last year when Marv and Bernie (Jordan Bernstine) were done, the first thing they did -- and it was such a little thing to brag about, anybody can have Twitter -- but they were just talking about us. In the Iowa lockerroom, it's a huge thing. It's like a new man code. You're not an adult until you're able to get Twitter. -- Crap? -- I have friends back home who always say, you would have so many followers. First, I saw we can't. Then, they ask why and I say it's just team policy. First thing they say, is OK, that doesn't make sense. You can have Facebook, but you can't have Twitter? OK, I'm not going into detail why I can't tweet, just know that I can't tweet. Just leave it at that. Don't try to make me mad about it, just know that I can't tweet. -- The Jameses would say that. --

Q: Coach, what is your policy on your players using social media?

Ferentz:†Pretty simply, we discourage Twitter or ban it.

Q: Why?

Ferentz:†Just because there are just way too many examples right now . . . And it doesnít mean our players would be guilty of it, but the likelihood of it happening is too high, so weíve really pretty much banned Twitter. I donít think we have to make a national announcement on that, but thatís just been our policy. Then, Facebook, MySpace, YourSpace, MyFace, all that stuff, I think itís probably going too far for me to say you canít do that and unrealistic, but we sure have tried to educate our players to just think about what theyíre doing and that itís part of their DNA once they post something. Itís an educational process and I think players are smarter now than they were five years ago. It just really opens the door to get in trouble really easily. We all do things we wish we hadnít done, and thatís just one more avenue to do that.

Q: Have you ever as a coach considered getting Twitter or anything like that?

Ferentz:†I have a member of the staff suggest that I do that. Weíll see. Itís not beyond the realm of possibilities. Not that Iíve read anything, but they give me copies of things that have been on Twitter and I havenít seen much thatís really insightful. To me, life would be fine without it, but I realize times have changed too.

Q: Do you think your players are OK with it?

Ferentz:†Iím sure there are some who wish they could. I tell them, hey, as soon as you play your last game, you can Twitter your life away. They can do a lot of things, go do what they want to do, but Iíd really like to see them have good careers and be as uncomplicated as possible and I really like to see them get their degrees. Thatís really all I care about.

Q: Is there any other place where you can communicate with fans?

Ferentz:†I still think thatís what press conferences are for. Not to give you too much commentary on Twitter, I think itís OK for people to watch things and to draw their own conclusions sometimes. When they get done playing, they can Twitter their lives away.

Q: Do you think with Iowa having a policy against Twitter that theyíre kind of behind other schools who let players use it?

Ferentz:†You never say never, so Iím not saying weíll never change our policy, but if that really becomes a determining factor for a guy picking our school or another school, he probably wouldnít function real well in our program anyway so weíll just live without him. I may eat those words down the road, weíll see. Iíll Twitter it if I do, if we switch that.

Q: How has Twitter and Facebook changed the life of a head coach?

Ferentz:†Itís one more challenge. Itís one more thing to educate them about. There was a long list prior to Facebook and Twitter. Now, just throw those two on there. The potential for missteps, not everyday but frequently, of things that come out that I would imagine, now Iím talking about athletes, athletes might regret what they said or put out there. I know coaches do.

Q: Do you have any restrictions on players?

Ferentz:†Yeah, weíre not really big on Twitter. Iíll let them Twitter their lives away after theyíve played their last game. We encourage them not to use that. If they want to Twitter away for the next 60 years, have at it.. Itís just like if they make a comment to the media. Theyíre responsible for that. Just like any actions you take, youíre responsible for those. Just add it to the list. My concern as a parent or coach is sometimes people donít think about what the long-range ramifications might be, as a player and, more importantly, trying to go out and get a real job in the real world. NFL people look at all that stuff, too. They look at all that stuff in the NFL process.

Q: Your son whoís on the staff now hinted on a tweet at some point that you might be joining the Twitter nation. ó Iíve been told to get a baseball bat for that one.

Ferentz:†I joked about that yesterday and Iím sure that everyone is sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the arrival mainly because the things that get tweeted are so insightful and so interesting. I could see why they would want to know what I might have to say.† Weíre still working through that process.

Q: I can tell youíre excited about the idea.

Ferentz:†Never say never. Iíve got to make sure itís a Styrofoam bat when I do receive that blow.
 
 
 

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