Guidelines for student-athletes on social media


November 20, 2013 by ryanfadus

When it comes to social media, some of the people most watched are student-athletes or those trying to become student-athletes.  In either case, the person has to be very careful what they say since it could end up hurting them in the long run.  There have been several cases in recent years of athletes in college and in high school losing scholarships or getting kicked off them team because of what they put on social media.

At WVU, there is a large presence of athletes and even coaches on Twitter and Facebook.  All athletes and coaches are held to high standards and must be careful what they say and how they say it.  WVU has a set place of guidelines for employees at WVU, but nothing specifically targeting athletes.  However, while the rules aren’t directly focused on athletes, they can still take notes from them.

One rule states that, “Users must not post confidential information about West Virginia University, its faculty, staff, or students.”  While it seems unlikely that any athletes would in fact do this, an athlete for example could become very upset with a professor20-social-media-icons and start posting private information about them on a social media site.  Having things like this in place keep order and maintain stability.

Not only do these guidelines cover social media, but also comment sections on articles or even statements made on social media sites.  Whenever someone offends us, it is natural for us to respond with anger and sometimes saying things we regret later.  That’s where this guideline comes into play; “Strive to maintain an appropriate and respectful tone when engaging in online discussion. Even though you are not speaking on behalf of the institution, readers will likely associate you with it. The actions and words of even one student may reflect on the reputation of the entire University.”  Nothing is truer of this than with athletes, since they are also students, but they represent the school with the jerseys they wear and all the other apparel.

These are just two examples of the guidelines that WVU has in place in order to keep the reputation of the school and the people who work here/study/play here intact.  However, some might think that these just apply to those who go here.  Even those who are planning to come here as student-athletes are held to these same standards.

As was the case a few years ago when one of the University of Michigan’s top recruits’ scholarship was revoked after several inappropriate tweets were discovered.  Most of them talked drinking and getting with girls and Michigan did not like this one bit.  They took away his scholarship and now he is playing at some school where he probably will never get drafted.

This is a perfect example of how social media can be used against athletes and it could end up ruining their lives.  Some of them think they are above the rules, but one misstep and they could be just another student instead of an athlete.  Athletes can use social media to their advantage to get people more involved in the game or some event that the team is having, but it just takes one time for them to screw up and it can all come crashing down.     


2 thoughts on “Guidelines for student-athletes on social media

  1. ebuchman5 says:

    Hi Ryan,
    This is a really interesting post on such a growing topic. I’m a member of the Athletic Department staff, and I can tell you that there are specific guidelines given to all student-athletes regarding the use of their social media accounts. While this information is not posted publicly, it is handed out to each student athlete at the start of their respective seasons. There is also a long meeting with each teams Sports Communications contact, where the do’s and dont’s of social media are laid out. As a matter of fact, within the last year, we have just started re-tweeting our student athletes on WVU sport-specific Twitter accounts (for example, we’ll re-tweet a WVU Baseball player from the WVU Baseball account, if its relevant). Deciding this was a big step, because by doing so, we open the world up to our athletes Twitter accounts. Now, chances are, if you’re that into following a specific student athlete, you’re going to find it on your own (regardless if the Athletic Department provides it or not), but there’s still some obvious risk involved with this. Just be careful when you say there are no specific rules regarding an athlete’s social media account–that’s not entirely true! Otherwise, nice job! This is a really timely post and will stay relevant as long as social media stays relevant (I don’t see it going anywhere any time soon!)

    Well done!

  2. To be honest, I had no idea bout this kind of stuff. I honestly didn’t know anything about it, but it makes complete sense. I’d like to know more about how it is monitored. What if a student has a separate account? You did a great way of linking our university to an actual case that happened. This is definitely a different type of post that we’re all used to from your blog, so I really enjoyed that. I think maybe adding some tweets in there for good examples vs bad examples would be really beneficial.

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