BATON ROUGE, La. | Les Miles congratulated top-three NFL draft pick Tyson Jackson, wished former LSU wide receiver Demetrius Byrd a speedy recovery after his car accident and bragged about the Tigers' performance in the annual spring football game.
The LSU football coach did it all during a five-day span using his new Twitter account.
The trendy Web site Twitter.com has grown quickly, according to Nielsen surveys, gaining an estimated 6.56 million new visitors in the year ending in February.
Now several Southeastern Conference athletic departments are catching onto the trend, using the platform to update fans and reach out to recruits.
Georgia coach Mark Richt and Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin already post comments, called tweets, frequently their Twitter accounts. LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette manages Miles' account by receiving information from Miles, then posting updates at the coach's discretion.
LSU, as an athletic department, has a separate account that posts news and score updates. So far, Miles' Twitter updates go to about 500 people.
"He's always recruiting savvy so he understands the big picture, and he understands this is another way to touch the fans, but also potentially to reach prospects," Bonnette said of Miles.
Meanwhile, programs like LSU are careful not to violate NCAA recruiting rules. In April 2007, the NCAA board approved a ban prohibiting coaches from sending text messages to recruits. But users who subscribe to someone's Twitter account can have that person's tweets sent to their mobile device. The specifics on the text message ban are outlined in NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199.
"As long as the coaches are not using Twitter to contact individual prospective student-athletes and are abiding by other recruiting rules, such as discussing specific recruits, there is not an issue with them using Twitter," said NCAA associate director for public and media relations Cameron Schuh.
Bill Smith, Arkansas assistant athletic director for new media, doesn't believe the NCAA will place any direct sanctions on athletic departments' use of Twitter. Arkansas' athletic department has one of the more active Twitter pages among SEC schools, updating it more than 600 times since it started using the software this year.
"Your coaches aren't going to tweet out, 'Boy, I went to visit Bill Smith's high school today, and that Bill Smith is a great athlete,' because they couldn't say that in any other format," Smith said. "But they could certainly talk about how great their school is."
Other coaches, like South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, likely won't be using Twitter anytime soon, said Eric Nichols, marketing director at South Carolina. But the Gamecocks' athletic department has sent out nearly 3,500 tweets by the end of April, the most among SEC schools using Twitter.
"The thing that makes Twitter work is its authenticity," Nichols said. "If you have random, boring tweets that are written from a (graduate assistant), not from a coach, it's not going to work."
Information from: The Advocate, http://www.2theadvocate.com