Wednesday night was a big night for Kansas University football players on Twitter. But not for the reasons you might think.
Instead of rejoicing over reporting to camp or sharing their excitement about the first official day of fall practices — today — the Jayhawks took to the Twitterverse to announce that they were signing off.
As in done. Finished. No mas.
Yep, Wednesday at the first official team meeting of 2011, KU coach Turner Gill informed his team that they would no longer be allowed to use Twitter during the season.
On some levels, this makes sense. Gill and the Jayhawks are trying to focus in on rebuilding the program and regaining some respect. A tall task such as that takes complete concentration and total commitment — when you’re at practice. What the players do from their dorm rooms after practice or on their days off should not be regulated so heavily.
My issue here isn’t with the Twitter ban itself. I get it. I don’t agree with it completely, but I get it and so do dozens — if not hundreds — of other coaches out there.
My issue is that the Jayhawks being on Twitter didn’t actually hurt anything or anybody. In fact, I’d argue that it did the opposite. This is a program in dire need of a little love right now and following Daymond Patterson, AJ Steward, Toben Opurum, Tyler Patmon, Lubbock Smith, DJ Beshears or whoever else on the KU football team sounded interesting gave us that. Fans were able to interact with players. The players themselves were allowed to be real. And, for 140 characters at a time a few times a day, people got to see a side of these athletes they don’t often see, something more than polished press conference speak or faces hidden behind helmets.
In the long run, this whole thing will probably blow over pretty quickly. It’s Gill’s team and it’s Gill’s rules. What he says goes.
And to the players' credit, those who officially announced they were officially signing off for a while did so in a classy manner.
For my money, though, I think laying down some rules and allowing his players to continue enjoying Twitter would’ve been the right move here. Tell them not to use profanity, not to release information about the team and not to conduct themselves in a manner that might embarass the program. Everything else is fair game. If Patterson wants to tell us that he just hit up Taco Bell, great. If Patmon wants to let people know that he’s more driven than he’s ever been in his life, great. If Steward wants people to know he’s happy about the St. Louis Cardinals’ latest victory, even better.
Cutting it out altogether just seems too controlling and misguided. Gill talks often about his desire to help shape and teach young men 18-22 years old. He had a chance to do just that here. Twitter is a real part of the everyday world — especially for people in college — and it appears as if it’s here to stay. So embrace it. Use it as a teaching moment. Don’t just pretend it doesn’t exist.