It started with basketball. Prior to the 2010-11 season, Villanova's basketball team was told to get off of the popular social networking site, Twitter, as well as Facebook and other platforms until their season was over. Players disabled, abandoned and deleted their accounts. When head coach Jay Wright finally joined the social media age in late 2011, he too swore it off from the start of their preseason training until after the final game was played in March.
"It was nothing that our players did," Wright explained of the policy. "It was more that people on websites were picking up just normal banter between the players and making issues out of things."
Now, the football program is in on the act. Players were informed today that they would be required to disable their Twitter accounts, effective immediately. VUhoops has reached out to Andy Talley for comment on the matter, but the program is currently in the middle of an intensive recruiting period. It does appear that Talley has ultimately made the call to institute the policy. An email was sent out announcing the policy change to the team.
Unlike the basketball policy, the football coaches do not appear to be banished from Social Networking. At least one offensive assistant has tweeted since the policy went into effect for players.
The football policy is also different in that it appears to be in effect during the off-season. There may be some strategy to that, however, as the players have been prone to mention injuries and other information on Twitter that coaches would prefer to stay confidential. The extent of wide receiver Norm White's injury was apparent during last summer's preseason workouts, based on tweets by White and his teammates, well before it was announced by the school that he would redshirt. This spring, Dan Shirey's achilles injury was first noted on the popular site, when the Senior lineman posted pictures of a scooter he had to use to get around campus.
While the basketball team instituted the school's first-known social media policy, the athletics department generally has been concerned with the athletes' use of these sites. Along with Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas, the Wildcats obtained the services of VarsityMonitor to check in on student-athletes' use of the sites and report back to compliance and coaches when a potentially damaging posting is discovered.
All of Villanova's varsity athletes were sent an email in January, telling them to add the service as a "friend" on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. That would allow the company to see anything that they post online and help the school to "develop and enforce fair and effective social media policies."
It was an unpopular move at the time, but less strict than a complete ban.
The use of VarsityMonitor is the only athletics department-wide policy that has been instituted at Villanova, but coaches are free to institute their own rules and regulations on the matter.
"Each coaching staff is responsible for their own set of rules and regulations," explains Villanova spokesman Dean Kenefick. "They would not need Athletic Department approval to implement this type of team rule."