As the ACC's elite work through the early portions of fall camp, fans and media won't be gaining insight from players on social media about their days or drills.
Clemson and Florida State have both elected to ban players from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like through the course of the 2015 season. This isn't the first time either program has instituted a ban, as players have reportedly self-enforced the rule among themselves throughout the fall.
“To be honest, I feel like we like it. We don’t have to hear all that foolishness, people talking about how we’re this or we’re that,” Tigers receiver Artavis Scott said, according to the (Charleston) Post and Courier's Aaron Brenner. “Yeah, that’s all cool, but we’re on a mission and we want to reach it. All that Twitter stuff, it doesn’t mean anything; it’s just talking until we go out there and prove ourselves.”
FSU has had a team policy since the middle of the 2011 season.
“That’s things we’ve done here,” coach Jimbo Fisher said, according to the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone. “When you’ve had success doing things, why would you not repeat it? Sports is about consistency and performance over a long period of time so when you do things well you repeat them. If there’s been a problem you change them. [The team] elected [to ban social media], that’s always been a very consistent thing for us for success, that’s part of our program."
This will undoubtedly rankle some, but it is clearly a double-edged sword. As Fisher's comments indicate, coaches are creatures of habit. And the Seminoles have won three ACC titles, and a national title, in the four years since taking the social media initiative, so they are in no rush to make any changes in that department -- even if they may be greatly exaggerating any correlation between the ban and winning.
Clemson has had nothing but double-digit-win seasons during that time as well. Coach Dabo Swinney has joked that he is a "Twitter quitter" since he surrendered his account in 2009. He can probably have a long conversation about this with Virginia Tech corner Kendall Fuller, who also closed his account, saying at the ACC Kickoff that "Twitter is pointless."
That may be a harsh take, and there are certainly pockets of fans and media who will see these schools' bans as one more way that the business of college athletics is limiting personalities and taking character out of programs. I agree: It is a coach's job to educate, and sometimes learning by trial and error is the most effective approach. But it is important to remember that the players themselves really don't seem to mind staying off the venues for a few months every year. And, considering many head coaches don't even let their assistant coaches speak to reporters in-season -- we're talking about grown, well-paid adults who should know what to say or what not to say when talking to other adults -- well, we can't be too surprised that they are minimizing unfiltered thoughts from college students. (A side note: When I sat down in Pat Narduzzi's office this spring and asked about the differences moving from Michigan State defensive coordinator to Pitt head coach, he said, in a telling response, that there wasn't much of a change, adding: "I've dealt with the media when I was up there. Coach [Mark] Dantonio was kind enough, after every game, you had your own press conference. … That's prepared me for that."
Social media is a tool, and like most tools, it can be used a right way and a wrong way. Few learn this harder than college kids, although us in the media are certainly guilty at times as well. As Michigan State men's basketball coach Tom Izzo has said in the past, his distrust of social media does not stem from a lack of faith in his players, but rather from all the good and (more often than not) bad things that are spewed their way, anonymous comments that can sting 18- to 22-year-old kids.
On a semi-related note, this conversation does make the news of Notre Dame having its season chronicled by Showtime all the more interesting, doesn't it? While details aren't exactly clear just yet, the idea of college players being subjected to TV cameras away from games throughout their season is certainly a new kind of challenge for a program to take on, and, within the context of this conversation, one giant invitation for a season-long distraction.