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Tweeting athletes @ SU

SU players are using Twitter to reach fans and friends across the university community and beyond.

Eileen Finn remembers telling her Syracuse University women’s lacrosse teammates about Twitter in the training room one day.

“We had a half hour conversation," Finn said, "and the next day I think three people had it."

Finn started her Twitter account about two years ago when she was bored one day. At first, she followed other Tweeters like cyclist Lance Armstrong and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, but after she roped her teammates into the addicting form of social media she began to Tweet for fans, family and mostly to teammates.

“We see each other for practice, but we all do our own thing during the day so it’s funny to log on and someone’s like, ‘Ugh, falling asleep in class,’" Finn said.

Finn and teammate Christina Dove, who started her account about a month ago, say that as athletes, they know the same rules apply to Twitter as to other forms of social media.

“Be smart about what you Tweet,” Dove said.

Jeff Rubin, assistant professor of practice at SU and president/CEO of SIDEARM Sports, Inc., the company that runs, said the athletics department should consider educating its athletes who choose to Tweet.

Rubin, who teaches at the School of Information Studies at SU, said the athletics department does not have an official number of how many SU athletes Tweet, but it should to keep track of what is being said about the program. Rubin pinpointed instances when athletes are conversing through Twitter not realizing how the content of their conversation reflects upon SU.

“Right now there’s no doubt in my mind a line is crossed,” Rubin said. “Maybe the wrong people aren’t following some of these athletes, and I say wrong people in the sense that they’re not watching and saying, ‘Oh, let me call the chancellor. Look what so-and-so just said.' But if we’re not careful that will happen.”

While Rubin is glad that athletes are using Twitter to connect to fans, he said guidelines need to be established for the athletes' Tweets. His team at SIDEARM Sports plans to train SU coaches on how to talk to their players about using Twitter.

However, he also noted the importance of the athletes Tweeting as opposed to a public relations agent, or in this case SU Athletics, using an athlete's Twitter page to promote their client.

“There’s a big difference between the professional athletes that are Tweeting and what they’re saying versus what the college folks are saying,” Rubin said. “I don’t know if it’s different because they understand what they’re saying is important or if it’s just not them saying it.”

He used Syracuse forward Wes Johnson as an example. Rubin said if Johnson is drafted into the NBA he might not have full control over his Twitter page because of public relations agents concerned about his endorsements.

Rubin said Twitter is important for allowing athletes to reach out to fans without the news media as an intermediary, but he stressed the importance of Tweets that reflect on the university.

“It hasn’t bitten us yet,” Rubin said, “but if we continue down this path without some guidelines it’s going to bite. Whether it’s us or some other university at the big Division I level, it’s going to hurt.”

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