Hot Reads: Does Your Football Coach Need to be on Twitter?
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Hot Reads: Does Your Football Coach Need to be on Twitter?

November 09, 2017

Does your football coach need to have a Twitter presence? Most people will view that as a dumb question at this point. “The kids” are on Twitter and coaches need to convince some of those kids to play for them. Therefore, coaches need to be on there.

One of the first things Bob Diaco did (or more likely was instructed to do) upon taking the job at Nebraska was sign up for Twitter.

https://twitter.com/CoachDiaco/status/823679971717771264

He’s tweeted 10 times since then. That’s not a critique, more just an example that feels like the common trajectory here: Coach is on Twitter because he has to be and basically doesn’t use it or hands it off to someone else to manage.

That seems mostly fine to me, but I’m far from a social media expert. So we’ll turn to Dr. Steve Dittmore. A professor at Arkansas, he recently wrote on this topic for athleticdirectoru.com:

 

While it is always difficult to predict the future, the guess here is that five years down the road, more coaches will adopt the strategies of [Jim] Harbaugh and [P.J.] Fleck. Using Scout.com’s football recruiting team rankings as a metric, it appears the approach Michigan has taken works. Harbaugh’s 2017 class ranked 3rd nationally, up from 7th in 2016 and 35th in 2015, the year Harbaugh arrived. Similarly, Fleck’s first Gopher class ranked 38th, up from 46th in 2016 and 56th in 2015. This evidence also seems to support the conclusions regarding competitive advantages for coaches which Jensen, Ervin and I reached in our 2014 research.

Recruits want the attention which comes with personality-driven coaches, and every athletic department can be a media company. Social media allows those recruits to see an additional side of a coach, one which is not present during a pre-scripted official visit. Coaches which eschew the free publicity social media affords will likely find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

 

Not surprised by that conclusion, though I’m still not convinced it’s the “competitive disadvantage” that people assume it might be. As Dittmore notes in the story, Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst doesn’t have a Twitter account as just one counter-example.

Mike Riley does have one, but I’d put him in the hands-off class of social-media coaches. He has a constructed presence on Twitter, but I wouldn’t call it “personality-driven” because it’s little of his actual personality. But you could still show an upward recruiting trajectory since Riley arrived in Lincoln, from 30th to 26th to 23rd per the same Scout rankings used for Fleck and Harbaugh. (Pretty flimsy proof of concept, that.)

Can social media be a tool for coaches? Sure, but I’m less convinced it’s a tool every coach needs to know how to use. It’s one of those "you’ve either got it or you don’t" scenarios, and the greater risk of finding a competitive disadvantage might be in trying to force those in the “don’t” category into the “do” category. Let the pros handle it, and if the coach also happens to be a social-media pro good for that school.

Nobody taught Lane Kiffin to do this, for example:

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