August 27, 2010
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun doesn’t have anything against Twitter, he just doesn’t have any desire to use it.
“I like more eye-to-eye contact, personally,” Calhoun said. “I prefer heart to heart, eyes to eyes, I like operating that way. I like something that’s more sincere and direct – or confronting, if necessary. But it’s sincere.”
Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes didn’t have to worry about stuff like this. But social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are a part of everyday life. Football coaches need to decide if they’re going to embrace them, reject them, or make sure nobody in their program uses them.
Three Mountain West coaches use Twitter: Colorado State’s Steve Fairchild (@CoachFairchild), New Mexico’s Mike Locksley (@CoachLocks) and Wyoming’s Dave Christensen (@CowboysFootball). Most of the 140-character posts are mundane updates on practice and attempts to excite the fans, but Fairchild used the medium to announce freshman Pete Thomas would start at quarterback against Colorado.
“I just feel like he gives us the best chance to win,” Fairchild wrote Aug. 17.
Fairchild approached Colorado State director of media services Zak Gilbert after last year's Mountain West coaches meeting and said he wanted to learn about Twitter. Fairchild took the interaction to a new level, sending out a tweet at halftime of games last year. Gilbert thinks he might be the first coach in the nation to do that.
"He wants fans to know that he’s not shut up in an office watching film all the time, unapproachable," Gilbert said. "He’s a husband, a dad and a huge football fan, just like them. That’s why he does it."
At the other extreme, coaches from Boise State and New Mexico State banned their players from using Twitter this year.
Calhoun doesn’t have a Twitter account, but didn’t want to keep his players from using it. The players are educated by the sports information staff about being responsible and how they’re representing the Air Force in what they say across all mediums. To Calhoun, Twitter or Facebook is no different than them dealing with the mainstream media.
“A lot is how much you trust the maturity of your guys,” Calhoun said.
Still, very few Falcons players use Twitter. The most regular tweeter is cornerback Reggie Rembert (@ReggieRembertJR).
“When we were in Vegas, Tejay Johnson of TCU was always checking his Twitter, so I’m like ‘I got to check and see what this is about,’” Rembert said, referring to the Horned Frogs’ safety from Mountain West media days. “So I started trying to figure it out.”
Most of Rembert’s updates are uncontroversial, such as dreading the start of classes this semester and being excited for this month’s scrimmages in Falcon Stadium, and he knows he has to be responsible.
“You’ve got to be careful what you say,” Rembert said. “You have an image to uphold.”
Air Force’s athletics department uses Facebook and Twitter for marketing purposes. The Falcons’ women’s basketball fan page on Facebook is regularly updated with news on the team, for example.
Calhoun could be pretty good at social media interaction – he is a good conversationalist, an avid sports fan outside of college football and loves promoting the academy – but he hasn’t been convinced to do it. He believes in free speech though, which is one reason he doesn’t restrict his players.
“There’s nobody that does more to preserve the First Amendment than somebody who is going to be an officer in the United States Air Force,” Calhoun said.