Coaches should let their players tweet

Let’s skip the formalities here and kick this off with a 140-character-or-less, Twitter-friendly start: Really, Steve Spurrier? You’re banning Twitter? How about you join the 21st century instead? #GetAClue.

The Gamecocks’ head football coach, otherwise a likable and seemingly wise man, has added his noteworthy name and program to the list of college coaches banning their players from using Twitter.

This is so dumb, I can scarcely believe I’m writing about it.

Other good guys, good coaches and otherwise smart people have enacted similar no-tweeting edicts. It’s as if coaches’ natural craving for control has barreled right over good sense when it comes to things they don’t understand, technology now foremost among them.

Boise State’s Chris Petersen took away his players’ right to tweet last year. Spurrier and Pittsburgh’s Todd Graham got on the bandwagon in the past week. Count Kansas football coach Turner Gill and hoops head coaches Rick Stansbury (Mississippi State) and Jay Wright (Villanova) among the country’s Twitter censors as well.

“Our staff talked about ways to continue to move our program forward,” Gill explained. “Somebody brought up the issue of Twitter and how it can be a distraction. We are not allowing our student-athletes to have Twitter accounts because we believe that (using Twitter) will prevent us from having enough preparation within our football program.”

I like Gill. Good man. Good husband, father and leader. Good to his players. Still has a long ways to go to show whether he’s a great football coach.

But on Twitter? Clueless.

“There’s no reason for our guys to tweet or Twitter anything out there,” Spurrier said on “The Dan Patrick Show” this week. “I don’t see how it could do any good for anybody. A couple of guys put some sort of nasty stuff on there in the summer.

“So we said, ‘You don’t need to do that anymore,’” he told the FOX Sports Radio host. “Let your girlfriend or your pal down the street do all the tweeting or whatever it is.”

Steve Spurrier is a helluva football coach. He’s a winner, a leader of young men, a guy I’d be happy to have a son play football for. He’s forgotten more about football than most of us will ever know, and his team has a chance to make some serious noise in the SEC this season.

But as a discerner of how our world has shifted and changed with the rise of technology and the sudden power of social networking? Calling him an amateur is overly kind.

Let’s boil this down to language everyone can agree on, from football coaches who like to be short and to the point, to all of us Twitter users who talk in 140-character bursts:

Old-school football coaches, please, please, meet reality.

Yes, there are players who are going to tweet things they shouldn’t, guys who will post things on their Facebook accounts that they’ll live to regret. The Internet is rife with examples.

Here’s just one, from two years ago, when-then Arkansas basketball player Courtney Fortson tweeted this burst of idiocy after some tough workouts: “Im gettin it at workouts like a dude who doesnt understand the word no from a drunk girl.”

Thing is, the issue with this tweet — or the many others that are easy to Google — isn’t with Twitter. It’s that people (particularly but not limited to young people) can say and do stupid things. It’s part of growing up. It’s part of learning to navigate the world.

Spurrier, Turner — all you coaches out there — it’s part of your job to help them do some of that navigating, some of that growing up, some of that going-from-boys-to-men thing.

You don’t do that by cutting them off from the world. You do it by helping them learn to succeed in it. And make no mistake: Twitter’s just a new but very powerful tool in interacting with the world.

Look, last month USC running back Marc Tyler got cornered late at night by TMZ. On camera, he joked about players getting paid more at USC than in the pros and about everyone “gettin’ Kim Kardashian.”

Yep, very, very dumb.

But is the solution to ban players from going out? From enjoying college? No social nights out unless previously approved, and no time with buddies not equally vetted?

Of course not.

It’s about teaching your players, trusting them and, when they screw up, responding accordingly. Which is exactly what Lane Kiffin did. The USC head coach suspended the kid and, a month later, Tyler is expected to be back soon. That sounds about right.

Like it or not, coaches, Twitter has entered the mainstream. Spurrier’s notion — that a few guys saying a couple of nasty things amounts to proof positive that you need to cut everyone else out from the way the world now works — is misguided, shortsighted and hardly an answer.

And believe it, this is now how the world works. By email. On Twitter. Via Facebook. On G-chats and over cell phones. These are college athletes here. Let’s let them leave college with some experience in how to maneuver (and even capitalize on) their status and social media’s power to harness it, Twitter included.

We’re a high-tech world. Some old-school things still belong in it. But the notion that everything new needs to be banned doesn’t make sense.

Twitter is nothing more than a modern means of talking. You don’t silence athletes with a decree from on high. You remind them of the power of their words and expect them to act like the adults they are.

You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at