Coach Speak, in 140 Characters or Less

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Last month, Darren Rovell from CNBC started a new feature he's calling Sports Twitter Rankings. With constant flow of information coming through the ever-growing network of sportsy types hopping on the world wide tweetstravaganza, Rovell could realistically be updating this feature daily, if not hourly. There is so much noise coming out of the Twitterverse lately, it's impossible for anyone to know what's real and what's not. ↵

↵Does Fanhouse really think that Shaq learned of his trade to Cleveland on Twitter, or did it just make for a cute late-night post to get some buzz going? And are we sure it was even Shaq smacking those keys anyway (rumors have been rampant that Shaq has a ghost-tweeter for much of his cyber-chatting). ↵

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↵Regardless of who is doing the actual typing, according to Rovell, Shaq is the king of all Tweets for the second month running. But there is only one coach who makes Rovell's top 10 so far -- USC's Pete Carroll. Sure the guy talks about surfing and bowling with the mayor, but he also breaks news, like the announcement of USC's new basketball coach before the official USC announcement. Unless that was the official USC announcement. In Rovell's description of why Pete Carroll is eminently followable, he brings up the most important point of this particular Twitter conversation: ↵

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↵⇥Plenty of college coaches have found their way on to Twitter and 99 percent of it isn't any good. ↵
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↵He's not wrong. I talked to an old friend who is a long-time college basketball coach and mentioned I was following him on Twitter. He replied with a chuckle, saying, "I'm getting pretty good at that Twitter thing, huh?" ↵

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↵"Yep, you don't say anything, just like the rest of the coaches out there." ↵

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↵College coaches, even the most effervescent of the lot, hate the media, so they rarely say anything publicly in fear of their words being twisted into something that might hurt recruiting. And after working in major college sports for more than a decade I can attest to the fact that everything is about recruiting. Fundraising isn't as important to coaches as recruiting. I'd venture to say winning isn't as important to coaches as recruiting. That BCS Bowl Trophy ... that sure is a great way to lure a five-star recruit away from your rival school. Heck, coaches have been known to contact recruits from the field of a big game just to let them know they can't wait until the following year when they are part of the team. Wins means better players in the future. It's the ultimate Chicken v. Egg situation. ↵

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↵So if everything is about recruiting for coaches, how does Twitter fit in? Thus far, it doesn't. Rovell points out that, in his estimation, 99 percent of the coaches say nothing of substance on their Twitter feeds. Sure, you can learn that Tom Crean watches Real Housewives (man that Danielle sure is a drama queen) and you can learn from any number of coaches that they are excited to watch their players compete or get after it or leave no stone unturned or keep chopping or whatever the catch phrase du jour is in college sports. It's noise. But fans follow coaches just in case they break some actual news, like Carroll did when announcing the hiring of a new basketball coach at his school before the actual school did. ↵

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↵Now that Twitter has infiltrated so much of our culture people are starting to portend the future of the micro-blog network. Has Twitter jumped the shark? Will Twitter be a useful tool one year from now or are we just looking at a random series of ones and zeros that only a few can truly decipher? ↵

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↵Kathleen Hessert, the President of Sports Media Challenge, a company charged with mashing the world of sports into the world of social media (that is, indeed, a challenge) spoke at Blogs With Balls about the future of things like Twitter and how coaches can use them for more than just updating how GREAT the last team workout was. ↵

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↵⇥"Some coaches are using twitter for substantive reasons, some are experimenting, and others are avoiding it like the plague," she explained via email (and Twitter, of course). "The issue of what is and what isn't a quality tweet or balanced comprehensive Twitter communication is still a core challenge for most. As you might suspect there's a lot of, 'if Coach X is doing it then I have to as well.'" ↵
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↵Hessert mentioned at BwB that she spoke with Penn State assistant Jay Paterno and tried to get him to convince JoePa to hop into the Twitterverse. Even one post per week from Joe, she claimed, would grow their audience exponentially and give them a huge following to plug their other ventures. Joe would build the audience, and Jay would reel them in the rest of the time. ↵

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↵But would anyone care what Joe Paterno says on Twitter? (Has anyone seen my glasses? Seriously, I can't find my glasses. And I've fallen ...) And does anyone think that Joe Paterno is cracking open Tweetdeck before heading out to practice to check his DMs? Clearly someone will be doing it for him. But the name "The_Real_JoePa" would undoubtedly get thousands of followers in a heartbeat just in case he says one thing of importance. Or just so people can feel like they're connected with the legend, and perhaps can help him find those glasses. ↵

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↵How far will this go? Twitter changes every day. Even a few months ago coaches were under the impression they can only Tweet, they can't Reply or Retweet in case one of their followers is a recruit or the family member of a recruit. ↵

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↵Hessert thinks that Twitter has a shelf life, and will continue to grow in college sports, especially. We've already established that coaches hate dealing with the media, so could Twitter replace the postgame press conference? ↵

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↵⇥"I absolutely see coaches posting game comments not just after the game but before and at half time. It takes less time and you can get more insight from a well thought out tweet than most half time field or courtside interviews." ↵
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↵Erin Andrews better get on Twitter soon. ↵

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↵Look, some of this is pie in the sky and right now; it's the wild wild west. Coaches don't have a clue what to say or how to say it. Hessert thinks this will be changing soon, and companies like Sports Media Challenge have tried to explain to coaches there is more to social media than the fishbowl effect. ↵

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↵There's money to be made. ↵

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↵⇥"There are now opportunities to make money for themselves and their programs through sponsored tweets. There will be blatant plugs and more that take on the tone and approach of product placements. Pete Carroll was terrific asking fans which jerseys they wanted NIKE to manufacture this year. That was an implicit plug but more than that got valuable information directly from fans that benefited all concerned -- NIKE and the dept/ football program. And it made him look social media savvy and fan centric at the same time. As in any commercial, the more creative the better." ↵
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↵I said before that coaches only care about recruiting, but I forgot about one thing far more important to them: money in their pockets. Coaches love making more money than their brethren. And now they can make money off Twitter? This seems too good to be true. ↵

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↵I guess it won't be long before we get to see JoePa on Twitter, plugging away. ↵

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↵"Met a PSU fan today who was in a coma for two years. Asked me how to get back into life. I told him, Depends." ↵

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↵When that happens ... we'll all be following. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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