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In Defense of Clemson's Ban on Social Media

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The face of Ben Lyons.
The face of Ben Lyons.
Todd Williamson/Getty Images

I wasn't going to write about this because it is one of those asinine stories in the dog days of summer that media outlets, desperate for some kind of substantive news coverage, latch on to irrationally.

That was until I heard the ridiculous, uneducated banter from Michelle Beadle and Ben Lyons on ESPNRadio. So here it goes...

First off, I encourage anyone speaking on the Clemson social media ban to do a tiny bit of research (perhaps one single Google search, for example) and add context to their thoughts about the ban. The ban is only during the football season and doesn't require any of the players to delete accounts, just refrain from posting during the season.

A very quick search reveals that this ban is in no way unprecedented. Everyone jumped on Clemson before realizing FSU has the exact same policy (hasn't hurt their recruiting or recent national relevance, right?). In 2011, Boise State, Kansas, and *gasp* South Carolina banned Twitter. In 2012, Washington State, etc. etc. Coaches have been formally and informally banning Twitter and social media for years in college and in high school. Step further back and you have a long history of coaches not wanting players to watch ESPN/TV and throwing newspapers out of the locker room or training facilities. Nothing new. Coaches are obsessed with players maintaining focus and winning the locker room (not allowing outside distractions).

The difference right now is not some newfound respect for a player's ability to express themselves in a public forum, but a result of coaches finally acknowledging that a social media presence is integral to recruiting. Don't worry about Clemson's recruiting--we are doing just fine...Lyons once again sticks his foot in his mouth saying he thinks recruits will look elsewhere because of the ban. Perhaps. Or maybe recruits understand that the team is coming together to sacrifice something that is unequivocally a distraction (both personally and on a team level) during the football season.

Beadle cites Ohio State's Cardale Jones tweet that "classes are pointless" as evidence of needing to let 18-22 year-olds have this space to learn how to use social media properly now so when it really matters later in jobs and families they will have needed social media competencies.

This is utter rubbish. Athletes are under the microscope in college more so than at any other time in their lives (Lyons tells us none of the Clemson players are going to the NFL--also rubbish, addressed below). Beadle forgets that athletes not named Cardale are often not given the luxury of missteps on social media. Again, a quick Google search. In 2011-2012, Stony Brook kicked a player off the team, Western Kentucky player suspended, Lehigh player suspended, Michigan recruit denied scholarship, etc. etc. for stupid tweets. The policy protects Clemson, but it also protects players (remember that it is only for the season--they are still learning for 7 months out of the year about public relations).

Saying that Dabo Swinney--the coach who has an almost perfect record of getting all of his players to graduate--doesn't care about the future of his players Beadle?? Are you kidding me? Are you talking about the same coach who won't cut an offensive lineman even though he is 100 pounds overweight and not making any progress towards competing? I am waiting for the commentary on EVERY SINGLE SEC COACH who routinely doesn't renew scholarships for players because they just aren't good enough for the team. Talk about a blatant disregard for the well-being and future of those athletes who are recruited and kicked to the curb. I'm waiting...

Does this policy further point to the sham of athletes as student-athletes in name only? Sure it does--but those are the systemic, institutional realities of college football and not something you should blame on Clemson or Dabo Swinney. Athletic departments are (or are becoming) media outlets, this is the reality of modern college sports.

Lyons obviously doesn't know much about Clemson as he states, "How many of these guys from Clemson really have a chance of playing professional football for a significant part of their lives. Not many of them, not many at all." Do you follow college football? Deshaun Watson ringing any bells? You know, Heisman candidate? Sammy, Nuk, Vic, Ellington, Spiller, Bryant?? For 7 consecutive years, we have had at least 4 players drafted. Clemson sent 14 to the NFL last year from a recruiting class of under 30. Is this the best commentary ESPN has to offer?

For the record, I prefer a social media policy that clearly outlines punishments for negative tweets and conduct deemed detrimental to the team. But Dabo Swinney is completely justified in a seasonal ban on social media and if I were in his position I would probably end up doing the exact same thing.