Coming off one of the more noteworthy wins in his first season as UCLA head coach, Jim Mora was heated. This wasn’t phony outrage or coach-speak intended to temper his team’s ego, rather a very justifiable verbal assault on a Twitter user parading as freshman Randall Goforth.
“I think it’s a frickin’ joke that somebody would do that,” Mora said. “I think you’re the lowest form of life-form if you were to portray yourself as an 18-year-old young man who is out here trying to do his best. Trying to stir it up, attributing comments to him that aren’t his, I think he ought to go to jail. That’s how I feel. I think you’re a scumbag.”
The tweets from the fake Goforth account sparked reaction from USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, who took the banter in stride. Nevertheless, this could have gone much worse and furthers the discussion of college athletics and social media’s tenuous coexistence.
Parody accounts are awful, by and large. I make this not as a sweeping generalization, because there is a select few that seem to grasp the concept of parody. Piggybacking off Mora’s sentiment, attempting to parody an 18-year-old is classless; outright pretending to be one goes to a new level of creepy.
The issue of social media and young athletes starts before some even arrive on campus. I have, and will continue to rail on those who tweet/Facebook message/whatever recruits either begging for their commitment or chastising them for their decisions.
Outright banning athletes from social media is the tactic some coaches have taken to both remove players from that seedier element, and to prevent lapses in judgment. Mike Leach banned use of Twitter among his Washington State players last month. Is the move somewhat hypocritical given Leach’s recent penchant for publicly criticizing players?
It is Leach’s decision to make, regardless. That he feels compelled to do so may be less of a social media issue than it is a byproduct of more deeply rooted problems on the Palouse. Contrast his policy with that of Oregon’s Chip Kelly:
Chip: “If you can’t trust your players on Twitter … you probably can’t trust them on third down.”
— Adam Jude (@A_Jude) October 24, 2012
Based solely on this sample size, there would appear to be a correlation between wins and social media policy. Then again, Jimbo Fisher banned his top 10 Florida State team from taking to Twitter during the summer, citing it as “a privilege.”
“When we are responsible enough to deal with it, we’ll deal with it,” he told Warchant.com.
Social media has erupted into everyday life, used now as a timewaster, marketing tool and even political campaign outlet. However, its roots are in college life. AIM away messages were the original wall posts or tweets, sometimes used to push news, other times to pathetically and passive aggressively guilt-trip exes (not that I ever did that as a 19-year-old).
I attended one of the first wave universities to have Facebook accessibility, years before it was populated with incessant Farmville updates. Similarly, Twitter is most heavily populated with the Generation Y crowd, including college athletes.
Some have said social media can be a learning tool for how to conduct oneself in public settings. In the case of Goforth, we see a shining example of how not to behave. Mora would likely reserve such words of disgust and disappointment to a player misbehaving similarly on social media — hopefully this has similar impact.