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August 4, 2011
Steve Spurrier had seen -- and heard -- enough.
As Wednesday's first day of practice approached, several South Carolina football players used Twitter to send farewell messages, saying they'd check back in after the season. Spurrier declared at SEC Media Days that he was going to issue a full ban on the social outlet, and followed through on it.
"He just told us not to use it any more," said linebacker Shaq Wilson, who has a Twitter account. "He said, 'Let your girlfriend do your Twitter.'
"It ain't nothing. We're here to play football, get education, get a degree. It's a social website; don't nobody care about that."
Spurrier mentioned at Media Days that he was thinking of banning the popular network, then declared that he would in an interview with ESPNU Campus Connection later on. The seventh-year coach sounded off on some of the questionable content that some of his players were putting out and said it had to end.
"Well, we have some dumb, immature players that put crap on their Twitter, and we don't need that. So the best thing to do is just ban it," Spurrier said then. "When I get back and talk to the team tomorrow, we're going to make that announcement."
It seems to have taken immediate effect.
"The season is officially here...won't see me on twitter until January when we are in New Orleans...time to eat #HUNTINSEASON," read one Tweet on Tuesday evening.
"Starting today. I'll tweet once in the morning. And save the heavy tweeting to Sunday. #focused," read another.
It has been a growing concern for coaches across the nation as the phenomenon exploded into the mainstream. Estimated to have 65 million Tweets daily, the popular network lets everyone with an account know how another person is feeling, or what they are doing, in 140 characters or less.
Many Gamecock football players use the network and many were posting graphic illustrations of what they were doing from day to day -- too graphic for Spurrier's tastes. While many used the network for posting thoughts about practice, the upcoming season or any stray idea relating to pop culture, some were putting thoughts best left unsaid into the public mainstream.
One player was recently describing bathroom activities. Another put out, apparently after a spat with a female friend, that had his infant daughter not been born within the past year, he would have transferred from USC. That was followed by hasty Tweets taking the statement back.
"I just wanna quickie...No bite marks, no scratches, and no hickies..If you can get with that, mami come get with me #Dat," read another recent Tweet.
Many Tweets have included racial, sexual or vulgar terms, which triggered Spurrier's decision to consider banning it. While the network comes with an optional lock, allowing users to restrict who can see their posts and who can't, many players weren't using it and allowing anyone who wanted to see the offensive posts.
"We find out all of the stupid things that some of them put on their Twitter," Spurrier said. "They can let their girlfriends do their Twittering for them."
Not all of the players' Tweets were bad. One uses his account to openly profess his faith and how much he loves Bible study and Christianity. A rather prominent user, tailback Marcus Lattimore, encouraged Gamecock fans to support the team and then swore off Twitter, before Spurrier made his announcement.
"#God #family #gamecocknation ... that's it from now on cutting twitter off til that Saturday in January were (sic) in New Orleans until then....," Lattimore said on his last post.
Despite those, Spurrier was informed of too many offensive statements and told his players to end it. He joined Boise State's Chris Peterson and Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Stansbury as coaches who have banned their players from using it, and Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said that he was considering doing the same.
"He told us he didn't really want us on it," defensive tackle Byron Jerideau said. "We have to watch what we say. It's a good thing. He said let somebody else do it."
The network has become an extremely convenient way to stay in touch with friends and has also been an invaluable tool for the media. Media members can post breaking news without going to the trouble of finding a computer, since Twitter is mobile-friendly and updates can often be posted by cell phone.
That also leads to following athletes on the network, which can reveal the inner goings-on of a team. Many players have broken news seemingly without realizing it, as did an MSU basketball player when he complained about his playing time. Stansbury read it in the newspaper the next day and promptly banned his players from using Twitter.
Spurrier had it happen to him, when cornerback Victor Hampton Tweeted in June that he had been dismissed from the team. Hampton was later reinstated, although he will be suspended for the season-opener and perhaps two games after that.
"Hopefully, they will accept it," Spurrier said. "Other coaches have that rule."
It can also work in other ways. Clemson quarterback Tahj Boyd used his Twitter account to issue his opinion on the arrest of assistant coach G.A. Mangus last week, Tweeting, "Like coach like QB (shaking my head)" with a link to a story about it. It didn't take long for Gamecock personnel to find out about it.
"It's on the bulletin board in the locker room," one source said.
It may be the last Tweet a Gamecock player has access to for a long, long while.
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