The tweet by former defensive lineman Marvin Austin was just 80 characters long. However, the consequences seem endless as North Carolina continues to feel the effects of the NCAA investigation that soon followed Austin's tweet from over two years ago.
During last Thursday's Pigskin Preview in Cary, N.C., UNC head coach Larry Fedora asked what he believed to be the biggest problem facing college football today. His response: "I think the way that the world is right now with information, if a player makes a mistake, it's running across the bottom of the T.V. immediately. It's in the newspapers. It's on Twitter. It's on Facebook. It's on whatever else is out there."
According to the NCAA infractions report, North Carolina failed to "consistently monitor the social networking of its student-athletes." While it is impossible to constantly monitor the activity of all the student-athletes, the school outlined a "Policy on Student-Athlete Social Networking and Media Use" in 2011.
Nonetheless, many Tar Heel supporters remain understandably wary of the use of instant technology by student-athletes.
Despite the negative connotation from North Carolina fans, interactive media and mobile tools offer numerous benefits if used in the correct manner. The football program is currently taking advantage the same resources that got the program in hot water as a way to put Tar Heel football back in a positive light.
All spring and summer, the football video office posted and tweeted clips of spring practice as well as features on players and coaches in an effort to reengage the fan base and generate excitement for the upcoming season.
The response to the videos, produced by North Carolina video coordinator Christopher Luke, has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, Luke was recently named the "2012 Bob Matey National Video Coordinator of the Year."
"I think it's awesome – it's almost the new age of football," quarterback Bryn Renner told reporters during Sunday's ACC Operation Kickoff event at Grandover Resort. "Everybody wants their team to do well and they want to see how hard they're working, so I think the more times we can get some publicity in a positive light, it will help us in having a better fan base."
The videos not only offer North Carolina fans a first look at the new coaching staff, but they also give the public an inside look at the intensity and speed of practice under Fedora. In an effort to further engage and connect with fans, the videos are commonly tweeted out by the likes on Fedora, offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, recruiting coordinator Walt Bell as well as others on the coaching staff.
The ability to use Twitter as a tool for coaches to speak directly to the public and spread the word about Tar Heel football is a perfect example of the power of social media and a way it can be used in a positive manner.
In addition to the use of modern technology to promote North Carolina football off the field, players are able to take advantage of new resources to improve on the field.
"The new technology that we have as far as being able to watch film," Renner said. "I can pull out my iPad and watch every game from last season and then right when coach Fedora was hired I got all of Southern Miss's games. That stuff is invaluable if you want to be where you want to be as a quarterback."
About halfway through last season, Renner downloaded an app developed by DVSport Software, which gives him access to any game film he wants. The ability to instantly pull up film saves Renner the time it takes to go back and forth from the Kenan Football Center at night to watch film. Instead, he lies in bed and is able to get in a couple extra hours of film study.
"It's priceless for me as a quarterback," Renner said. "You give it to our video guy, Christopher Luke, who I go to, [and he] puts on whatever you want. He's got so many video files on that stuff."
Renner's iPad and DVSport app are not merely accessories to the quarterbacks' technology repertoire. They are tools Renner hopes will give him, as well as his teammates, an advantage on the field this fall. This instant technology offers an easy opportunity to improve even when not practicing, lifting weights or in the football facility.
"A lot of guys on the team have [the app] now," Renner said. "Most of the guys who have iPads are getting it and utilizing their chance to get better in their off time."
Social media and instant technology offer both pros and cons depending on how they are used. For the past two years, the North Carolina football program has dealt with the negative aspects. However, as the program enters a new era, fans and players are slowly beginning to embrace and tap the positive potential of the technology.