Watching the social network


As Twitter and Facebook continue to change, SDSU athletics and its athletes are learning more about it as well.

“We live in a world now that operates in 140 characters or less.”

Those words, spoken by SDSU women’s basketball coach Aaron Johnston, seem to sum up social media pretty well.

The world is quickly finding out there’s quite a bit that can be said within a short span of space.

Athletes, coaches, the media, fans and alumni are using Twitter more than ever and the increasingly popular medium has made its way to sports at SDSU. Twitter, along with other social media platforms, continues to evolve, becoming the most instantaneous way to let a couple people or a couple million people know what you’re doing right now.

“It’s definitely blown up the last couple of years and I just have (an account) to keep up with friends that I usually don’t keep in contact with,” men’s basketball player Nate Wolters said.

Athletes are finding out that people watching and seeing what they post doesn’t always mesh with what the teams and schools they represent want their student-athletes to talk about.

Pushing the policy

The Athletic Department has a social networking policy that covers Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. SDSU has had a policy since 2005 but as of October, a newly revised policy was issued specifically to take into account the growth of Twitter, according to Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Kathy Heylens.

The policy says athletes should not post anything that would make themselves, their team, their coaches or school look bad. The policy also states players “could face discipline and even dismissal for violation of polices and procedures of SDSU, the Athletic Department and/or the NCAA.”

SDSU Athletic Director Justin Sell said Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) members helped draft the current policy with the administration.

“I’m not a big one to put a blanket policy or to not allow students the opportunity to express themselves, but we’re taking more of an approach to educate student-athletes about what you say, when you say it, how you say it and how it can be construed without context can be dangerous,” Sell said.

The role of educating students on the risks and the appropriateness of social media is as far as the department takes it. As far as disciplining players for violating rules pertaining to social media, the responsibility is in the coaching staff’s hands.

“When you’re representing South Dakota State, you’re held to a certain standard as to how you communicate what we are, what we do and what information can be out there,” said Sell. “Really, I leave it to the individual programs and their coaches to kind of help monitor those things.”

One way to combat social media problems is to have student-athletes be up-front with their social media pages. In the equestrian program, the coaching staff has members of the team share their Facebook pages with the rest of the team during their meetings.

Brad Iverson, a senior tight end on the football team this year, said the football team also has the policy of letting coaches see what’s on players’ Facebook pages when they are broken down into their respective position groups.

“I don’t really care [if they look]. It doesn’t really bother me because I don’t have that much on there,” said Iverson, who has a Facebook account and says he’s Facebook friends with his coaches.

“If you’re not posting anything that is going to damage the team in the first place, then it really doesn’t matter if they check it or not,” junior wide receiver Aaron Rollin said.

Twitter can lead to misinterpretation, as well.

According to Rollin, the footb