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Bearcats Embrace Twitter With Caution

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On April 6th, the website NBAdraft.net started a mild panic among some UC basketball fans when it listed Sean Kilpatrick among the current college players who are likely to leave school early this year for the NBA draft.

Kilpatrick quickly put out the fire on his Twitter account.

It was a savvy use of social media as Kilpatrick quickly defused the rumor by communicating directly with the nearly 6,000 people that follow him on Twitter - many of whom promptly re-tweeted his message to thousands of others.

"I love Twitter and the fact that you get to speak to people across the world every day," Kilpatrick told me.  "For example, I communicate with former Bearcat Kenny Satterfield nearly every day.   I'm happy that I have people like him constantly in my ear about staying focused.  That's big."

Former UC football star JK Schaffer (@Schaff37) is also a fan of Twitter who sends frequent tweets to more than 2,000 followers.

"It's fun to reach out to people," Schaffer said.  "You get to show fans your appreciation and you get to show your love for your team.  There are a lot of things that I really like about it."

But social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are obviously an area of concern for Cincinnati's head coaches.  According to a recent story in USA Today, Boise State, Mississippi State, and South Carolina are among the universities where coaches have banned or limited tweeting.

"In the age that we live in today, all it takes is one bad decision or choice of words and that lives forever with you," said UC head football coach Butch Jones.  "It's the age that we live in, so you try to educate them and make policies, just like you would with your own kids.

"One of the most powerful things that we did was bring in the National Football League's Director of Player Development Troy Vincent.  He posted all of our players Tweets and knew how many of them were on there, and I think our kids were amazed at how much was out there."

"Coach Jones definitely spends a lot of time teaching about social networking and how it can definitely get you in trouble," said Schaffer.  "You can't post things about your team that you shouldn't be talking about - there are things that stay within the football family.  You have to learn to censor yourself and hold back your personal feelings on some things." 

"We don't let anyone know what's going on the locker room or what's going on with the team, period," said Kilpatrick.  "I think everyone has done a great job with that."

While Kilpatrick does not share locker room secrets, he does keep followers informed about his daily activities and frequently states his love for the Cincinnati fan base.

"I appreciate all of the people that follow us on Twitter, because they come to our games and support us throughout the season," said Kilpatrick.  "Besides being a basketball player, I'm just a person at the end of the day and I try to show everyone that you might know the Sean Kilpatrick that you see on the court, but you don't know him off the court." 

Thanks to Twitter, we know that Kilpatrick will be back for his junior season, but if he does eventually become a professional athlete, he'll already have experience in dealing with social media.  It's one of benefits that Bearcat athletes receive by being taught to use Twitter and Facebook responsibly while they are still in school. 

"What you have to make sure is that your players understand the ramifications that go along with Twitter," said Coach Jones.  "There's nothing private about any of that, and they have to understand the repercussions of their choice of words."

"When you post things on social networks, you're representing your university, your team, your coach, and yourself," said Schaffer. 

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