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Arizona Wildcats value Twitter … but they know everyone is watching

Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne often keeps his hands free in order to use Twitter.
Photo by Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com

Twice in the past couple of months, Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne has released Wildcats football news on Twitter — announcing that Robert Anae was the new offensive line coach and making public that secondary coach Duane Akina was leaving to go back to Texas.

Welcome to the media’s new world.

Byrne, who spoke Wednesday morning on a panel discussion for the College Sports Information Directors of America, said he was initially skeptical of the value of Twitter. He has, however, become a convert, even if his two most high-profile coaches — football coach Mike Stoops and men’s basketball coach Sean Miller — have not.

(You can read the full transcript of the panel discussion at CoSida.com)

Byrne uses Twitter to break news, to inform on events, to give away tickets and to reveal a bit of a personal side. He also has to devote athletic department resources in the compliance office to monitor the activities of Arizona athletes in social media.

The athletic department’s biggest star right now — sophomore forward Derrick Williams — is also one of Arizona’s most prolific (and followed) tweeters.

I asked Williams on Tuesday what advice Miller gives him about Twitter.

“No cussing, stuff like that,” Williams said. “Other than that, he says have fun, don’t say anything dumb or stupid.”

Not only is the UA compliance office watching, but so is the media. I used one of Williams’ tweets for a story Tuesday night as the sophomore responded to a comment from USC coach Kevin O’Neill about Williams getting favorable treatment from officials.

TucsonCitizen.com’s Christopher Wuensch monitors all manner of social media to create his “Bear Down and Blog” and “In Their Own Words” posts. (View his page here.)

Naturally, fans are re-posting stuff from Facebook and Twitter on message boards.

Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Stansbury recently banned his players from Twitter after one of the players criticized the team’s performance.

So, yes, many are watching … and that number is only going to get bigger.

Byrne’s message in this new social media world: Enjoy, but beware.

He addresses all of the student athletes at the beginning of the school year on the potential pitfalls of social media, showing them a PowerPoint presentation of non-flattering information and images he found of other athletes with a quick Google search.

He said Arizona athletes have to report their social media accounts to the compliance office “so we can gain access to it.”

Said Byrne: “I actually follow our higher-profile student-athletes, and I tell them, ‘Hey, guys, women, whatever you put out there, I’m looking at it, too, so keep that in mind when you’re ready to put something out there.’”

Byrne said he prefers Twitter over Facebook as a communication platform. (In fact, this whole story got started because Byrne tweeted this morning that he was going to be part of the live streaming CoSida discussion.)

“I really wasn’t into Facebook a whole lot because I felt like it was a lot of two-way communication, which isn’t all bad,” he said.

“As an athletic director at a Division I school, you’re going to have a lot of fans want to become your friends. You could spend a good chunk of your day answering Facebook questions.

“What I saw with Twitter is it was a lot more one-way communication. It was the ability to get your message out, promote your program, talk about different and unique things we get to do on a daily basis that keeps people engaged.

“The reality is there’s so much competition for people’s time and resources, what they’re doing, if we don’t stay out there and communicate on a regular basis, they’re going to pay attention to something else.”

Byrne — @Greg_Byrne — had about 4,100 followers on Twitter as of Wednesday morning.

The account maintained by the sports information staff — @AZATHLETICS — delivers news on all Wildcats sports and also had about 4,100 followers.

Williams — @DWilluofA23 — had about 3,600 followers.

Several members of the TucsonCitizen.com Sports Network are on Twitter, including me — @AGWildcatReport.

Others include:

Javier Morales (@wildaboutazcats)

Scott Terrell (@Scott_Terrell)

Brad Allis (@WSRBrad)

Steve Rivera (@Riverman1964)

Christopher Wuensch (@AtPressTime)

Several Arizona Daily Star sports reporters use Twitter, including Bruce Pascoe, Ryan Finley and Patrick Finley.

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