Iowa on Social Networks

Social Networks have become a way of life in our society and that trend has spilled over into college football. Iowa utilizes the medium in recruiting and promotion but proceeds with caution.

Iowa coaches were monitoring the social network page of a recruit when some content there caused concerned. The proverbial red flag was raised.

Kirk Ferentz followed up with the athlete. The Hawkeye head man was gauging if the words truly represented the young man.

"I had a private conversation with the prospect about it and asked him to maybe consider taking that off his site," Ferentz said. "Then the question that would probably get asked is, ‘Would your mom be OK if she looked at that? How would she feel about that?' And it frightened me a little bit when the prospect informed me that his mom was OK with it.

"So that was a little bit of a scary moment, so we did make a decision to probably go in a different direction. It was a mutual decision that it probably wasn't going to be a great marriage. That's frightening."

Ferentz said he and his assistants discuss social media frequently. These networks prevail in society and are part of college football's fabric.

Recruits communicate with coaches through Facebook and Twitter as much or more than they do by phone call or text messages these days. Most of the Iowa staff is on both networks with the exception of Ferentz, his coordinators, Greg Davis and Phil Parker, and defensive line coach, Reese Morgan.

Five current Big Ten head coaches (Pat Fitzgerald, Bo Pelini, Mark Dantonio, Kevin Wilson and Tim Beckman) are on Twitter. Incoming conference members, Rutgers (Kyle Flood) and Maryland (Randy Edsall), have their main men on there.

Michigan State's Dantonio uses his Twitter account for recruiting.

"If I get to the point where I absolutely deem it necessary to Facebook or Twitter or tweet, whatever the proper term is, then I guess I'll do it," Ferentz said. "But right now, I think we have enough guys covering ground on it and I understand that's a big part of the world we live in."

In addition to direct messaging recruits, Iowa assistants use their social media accounts to promote the program. Strength and conditioning Coach Chris Doyle shares inspirational quotes and ideas.

Facebook and Twitter often are associated with the younger generation. Some coaches break through the age gap.

"Believe it or not, we're not all dinosaurs," said Ferentz, who turns 58 on Thursday. "Jim Reid (62) is a phenom on social media. Jim also understands you can't coach if you can't recruit and the way to get to recruits is through Facebook and all that stuff.

"I'm not surprised because Jim wants to be the best coach he can be and realizes that's a part of."

While the Iowa coaches utilize Twitter to monitor and reach out to prospects, once a player arrives at Iowa, if he has an account, it must go dark until he leaves the program. It's a rule in which Ferentz believes very strongly.

The Iowa coach points to a recent court case that stirred the country's emotions. People from all over the world, including professional athletes, reacted impulsively on Twitter.

"I'm not passing judgment on it, yay or nay, but predictably, a day later they wanted to retract their statements," Ferentz said. "Whatever you put out there is out there> It's part of your DNA. So, that's my concern.

"There are countless examples of people that are older and more experienced than college athletes or college students that have regretted what they said. I don't see the upside to having guys out there and vulnerable to that, knowing they could do numerous other things."

Ferentz said he doesn't talk about his Twitter ban with recruits. He's not worried about it costing the Hawkeyes a prospect.

"If that's the most important thing to them in a college selection, then they probably don't fit well with us anyway, so that's OK," Ferentz said.

When recruits verbally commit to a college, they often connect with each other through social networks. Relationships are built before they ever meet in person.

As much as Iowa's head coach wants to keep up with the Jones', he believes strongly that bonds created through social networks need to be supplemented with in-person human contact.

"Once guys get in our program, I still want to encourage them when they're in our building to look at each other and talk to each other," Ferentz said. "Communicate with each other. Do the same thing in the dining hall.

"I guess that's the healthy thing to do and I encourage them to do it with their friends and their girlfriends occasionally, too. You know, look them in the eye and actually talk. I think some of that old-fashioned stuff is still good, just like blocking and tackling still works in football. It'll never change."

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