CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal said Ole Miss head football coach Houston Nutt has a Twitter page. The Twitter page that bears the name and image of Ole Miss football coach Houston Nutt does not belong to Nutt nor does he maintain it in any fashion.
It was by no means a an informative or insightful message, but it’s what hundreds have signed up for: “Its a great day to be a bulldog.”
That, grammatical errors and all, is what Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen sent out to his mass of Twitter followers on Tuesday. He’s just one of several college coaches who are using the micro-blogging and social networking phenomenon, which allows anyone with an account – it’s free at Twitter.com – to receive messages, or “Tweets,” of 140 or fewer characters.
Mullen’s Twitter user name is @CoachDanMullen.
Fans enjoy seeing the personal side of coaches and even if the connection isn’t deep, it’s a connection that wasn’t available before Twitter.
“Generally speaking, they’ll put as much personal stuff on there as they will football-related stuff,” said MSU fan Craig Chrestman (@craigchrestman), 28, of Pontotoc. “It kind of puts a personality with the face, which the fan normally won’t get.”
Mullen does use Twitter for work, though. Mullen was Tweeting regularly during the Road Dawgs Tour, letting his followers know about turnout and his interaction with fans.
“Any time we can network to get information out to fans, to recruits, to Mississippi State people, I think all we’re trying to do is promote the program and keep them excited about it,” said Mullen, who as of Thursday afternoon had 901 followers.
MSU seems to have latched onto Twitter more enthusiastically than Ole Miss. A thorough search by the Daily Journal found no Ole Miss coaches or high-ranking administrators with an account.
Several MSU athletic department staffers are on Twitter, and the athletic department has an account, too (@mstateathletics).
Greg Byrne (@Greg_Byrne), MSU’s athletics director, is giving Twitter “a test run” and has already received a lot of positive feedback. He said staying on top of ever-evolving technology is crucial to MSU’s success.
“One of the things I believe strongly about is that we need to be a little more creative than who we’re competing against,” Byrne said. “I think for our coaches to be on Twitter is a good thing.”
Not all the coaches are savvy yet. State baseball coach John Cohen hasn’t joined up, but he is considering it.
“I’m definitely going to entertain that, just from the standpoint of I want our fans to know exactly what we’re up to all the time,” he said. “Because I think it’s really exciting, many of the things we’re trying to do, and I want to keep them updated with that.”
Twitter represents a new frontier as well as a new challenge for the NCAA, which currently has no hard and fast rules specifically addressing Twitter and recruiting. But coaches must still be careful.
A Tennessee assistant football coach committed a secondary violation Tuesday when he mentioned a recruit by name on head coach Lane Kiffin’s Twitter page. That’s a no-no, no matter the mode of communication.
“The NCAA, they’re just trying to get their arms around it right now and all it means, and they’ve talked about some legislation already,” Byrne said. “But like everything else, we’re going to be very cognizant of the rules and stay in between the lines of it.”
When used judiciously, Twitter can be an effective recruiting tool for coaches.
“It keeps their name out there,” Chrestman said. “It’s like continual advertising.”
Who’s on Twitter? A sampling:
Dan Mullen (@CoachDanMullen), MSU football coach
Greg Byrne (@Greg_Byrne), MSU athletics director
Les Miles (@LSUCoachMiles), LSU football coach
John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari), Kentucky basketball coach
Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll), USC football coach
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal