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Published: Saturday, 6/22/2013

Kowalczyk softens stance on Twitter

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
University of Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk watches the action. University of Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk watches the action.
BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

The coach who openly detests Twitter and who prohibits his players during the season from posting on the social media site is now a member.

Why the change of heart, Tod Kowalczyk?

“My staff thought it was important,” the University of Toledo basketball coach said. “I listened to their advice.”

Believing a social media presence will facilitate stronger interaction with fans and season ticket holders, Kowalczyk surprised many this month when he registered for an account.

Full disclosure: The author of the four posts from @Coach_Kowalczyk might be one of Kowalczyk’s aides.

“I am not tweeting. Our program is tweeting,” Kowalczyk said, grinning. The account thus far has opined on the NBA finals and expressed pride for the university and the city.

Ghost writer or not, Kowalczyk’s move comes at a time when other reluctant coaches and administrators are joining the online party, ostensibly to make their jobs easier.

UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs on Wednesday logged on, revealing in his initial post that he surrendered to the suggestion to join by a university employee. Athletic director Mike O’Brien said he is entertaining the idea of registering.

Bowling Green State University’s Dave Clawson, a long-time hold out, came on board in February.

“To me it was more for information gathering,” Clawson said. “There’s so many different people, whether it’s about news in college football, or people announcing offers in recruiting. It’s become a really good news source for college football and recruiting.”

Clawson, who has made 26 posts over four months, added “at some point I probably will get more into it in terms of tweets.”

All but three football coaches and three basketball coaches in the Mid-American Conference have accounts they use at least fairly regularly. The Tulsa World reported last month 88 major college football coaches have accounts. 

Four MAC athletic directors are involved in the world of hash tags and 140-character exchanges, and Toledo’s O’Brien soon could make five.

“It’s something I’ve given thought to,” he said. “I’m going to let the university communication folks talk me into it. I think it’s a possibility.”

Kowalczyk is perhaps the most unlikely participant. He long has derided Twitter as an “I and me society” that diverts attention from the team. He bars his players from tweeting during the season and has punished violators with sprints. Now, a few days after turning 47, he is softening his position, the apparent result of a conversation with assistants in their 20s and early 30s.

“I do think it’s great for our season ticket holders and our fan base to know what’s going on with Rocket basketball,” Kowalczyk said. “Teamwise, I still don’t feel it’s a good thing for our program, but I may change my mind on that. I want our players to think more of ‘us’ and ‘we’ and not ‘me.’ ”

Kowalczyk dismissed the notion his social media presence will aid in recruiting — “I’ve never lost a player because I wasn’t on Twitter. I don’t think I’ll ever get a player because I am on Twitter.” Clawson declined to say if he uses the site to correspond with recruits, wishing not to lift the curtain on his recruiting tactics. He did however say he monitors accounts of prospects and stopped recruiting a player because of tasteless remarks the player made on social media.

“It’s something that was so out of line with the character and the value system of our program,” he said. “It just wouldn’t have been responsible.”

Kowalczyk too has stopped recruiting a player after he or one of his assistants read something that raised concern of the player’s character.

As for Kowalczyk’s current players — the ones under command to stop tweeting every October and not resume until March — good news could be coming.

Kowalczyk may pull yet another shocker.

He is considering lifting the ban.

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “Certainly up to debate.”

NOTES: UT players will report to campus Sunday in preparation for the first summer practice the following day. Kowalczyk expects full attendance aside from senior Rian Pearson, who will not enroll in summer classes but will re-join his teammates in the coming days. ... Baltimore point guard Kamau Stokes visited Toledo on Friday on an unofficial visit. A rising senior at Dunbar High, Stokes has also visited Ohio University and Buffalo among others.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.


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