At the height of the burner account craze there was a sentiment floating around Twitter that was half-sarcasm, half-serious: “never tweet.” The joke was that if you don’t tweet, you obviously can’t do anything that will land you in trouble. The seriousness stems from the fact that having multiple outlets to type out every single thought that pops into someone’s head — and share those thoughts with the entire world — has led to a lot of smart people saying a lot of stupid things.
We’re learning more and more the new Husker football regime might feel that kind of comment is more serious than sarcasm, and the best way to go about business is by avoiding those kinds of things altogether. Yet another old-school approach for a staff that oozes new-school vibes.
This thought first came to me a week ago when coaches made their tours through the state on June 11 and 12. Athletic Director Bill Moos, when speaking to fans in Gretna, was asked about the generational divide between Husker fans and how to engage the younger demographic.
“Students have got too many options, and 90 percent of it is on their cell phone,” Moos said at the time. “The way I address that is I address them: ‘There will be a game, if not two, where you’re going to make the difference. You will decide whether we win or lose and you’ve got to be there, you’ve got to get there early and you’ve got to stay until the very end and you’re going to make the difference … Put the phone in your pocket and stay engaged.’”
It was only a matter of time before the “Millennials Are Killing College Football Attendance” hit piece. (I kid.) But there’s a point in there that Moos makes if you look for it. The younger generation is too invested in the cell phone, too invested in social media, in streaming, in virtual spaces rather than physical ones. Rather than play to that like everyone else is right now, Moos saying pocket the phone shows a desire to do something different, to swim against the current.
His head coach might just be right there with him.
We’ve seen Scott Frost organize a Husker softball game for team-building purposes. We’ve seen him enlist former servicemen and women for training. He’s spent time at other Husker sporting events with players growing relationships. With his very limited free time, he took a trek through the Grand Canyon and during it told stories about swimming with sharks and hiking mountains. I’ve heard Frost plays pool with players. We have yet to hear of any Fortnite tournaments with the head ball coach.
For all the new school flair — the breakneck pace of practice, the spread-it-out offensive playbook, the general influx of speed — Frost’s approach to relationship building and engaging remains very traditional. To say that fits well in the Midwestern-est Midwest state of Nebraska would be an understatement.
Hearing his take on Twitter reinforced things. Talking to kids at a recent camp, one uncle captured Frost addressing the use of the social media platform with a YouTube vlog (hat tip to the Omaha World-Herald for the find).
"Aside from GPA, when we're recruiting kids, the next thing we're going to look at is what kind of kid the person is," Frost said. "Part of that is looking through every ounce of social media we can possibly look at. So, if some kid tweeted something four years ago that's bad we're going to know about it.
"And I'll tell you this right now: if there's anything negative about women, if there's anything racial or about sexuality, if there's anything about guns or anything like that, we're just not going to recruit you. Period. Piece of advice for you: what you put on social media, that's your résumé to the world. That's what you're trying to tell the world you're all about. That's how you're advertising yourself. Be smart with that stuff.”
Not necessarily the all-or-nothing approach of “never tweet” but it does offer a window into Frost's view of the platform: it can be harmful and sometimes entirely unnecessary. Frost joined Twitter in February of 2011. He has sent an average of seven tweets a month since that time. He’s typed a tweet 12 times since he took the Husker job. Just not his cup of tea. And he’s not telling other people to straight-up ditch the platform — the rest of his staff has an army of GIFs at the ready when a kid becomes ‘All N” and those are, objectively, awesome — just advising to really be sure the world needs to know what you're about to tweet.
Compare that with the guy a ways down south in Norman — similar offense, similar sense of newness — who tweets eyeball emojis every time a recruit commits and you’ve painted two very different pictures. Go back to December when Frost first took the job. When asked about meeting his new team, he said: “There’s going to have to be a lot of shared experience before we can earn trust with one another … We’re going to be a more united team than anybody else, that’s what Nebraska’s about.”
Not a ton of head football coaches saying that kind of stuff in this day and age.
Then when you hear defensive coordinator Erik Chinander talking about visiting a prospect’s hometown to meet with his mom’s hairdresser so he can get a better feel for who exactly the kid is? It’s so much more than just phone calls, text messages and retweets with this new group and the craziest part is that it's definitely working.
The Huskers are winning over recruits left and right and, whether publicly or privately, we haven’t heard a single member of the program offer up one piece of criticism of the new staff in place. That style probably doesn’t fly with everyone; it certainly won’t with those few that ask for social media followers in exchange for commitments but those aren’t the type of kids Nebraska wants to attract anyway. Chinander has said before they want guys who want to really commit to something, not guys that just want to be recruited.
Still, there is a little bit of irony in this whole deal. The non-social-media-driven approach to relationship building and self-promotion in a social-media-driven climate while simultaneously documenting the program's transformation on film with a mini-series kind of irony. That behind-the-scenes, from-our-own-eyes video stuff the Knights did with Frost in Orlando; that stuff came here, too. And there's undoubtedly an agreed-upon benefit to continuing to do it from everyone within the department… otherwise, you know, it wouldn't be done.
There's also the fact that we might not have ever even heard Frost's spiel about social media had someone not filmed the thing and turned it into a piece of social media content. The world is often funny like that.
So, for now, I'll break the "never tweet" rule and share this piece of content on social media praising the new guys for going old-school in their approach to social media because that's what works for us media folk. As for the Huskers, sometimes the old ways of doing things work just fine.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.