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September 23, 2010

9:12 PM

After a long day at the office, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Jamion Christian collapses on the couch in his living room. As he turns on the television, he picks up his Blackberry and types a short message.

“Man our guys put the time in this summer… tribes first day of workouts were impressive,” he writes. “Now braves on espn….a lil r and r.”

Christian’s message, just 126 characters long, instantly goes out to each of his 98 followers on Twitter. And just like that, his life goes viral. He’s not alone. Over the past year, coaches, players and staff all over campus have been sucked into the Twitter revolution over the past year, spreading information about the Tribe.

Christian began his Twitter account in March to help publicize the Tribe basketball program to friends, other coaches and recruits. With Head Coach Tony Shaver in the minority of Tribe coaches without a Twitter, Christian has found himself to be the online voice for the men’s basketball program.

“For the kids that are looking at William and Mary, I want them to be able to look at that Twitter and get a strong understanding of what our program stands for, what we do and why we do it and also who I am,” Christian said.

Despite Twitter’s popularity among coaches, most admit they don’t understand its full recruiting impact quite yet. Head Swim and Dive Coach Matt Crispino began his Twitter account last year to give the swimming program an online voice. But even with daily updates, Crispino has, to this point, found Twitter less than successful in communicating with recruits.

“If it’s had any recruiting value, it is very below the surface,” Crispino said. “I haven’t had a recruit come up to me and say ‘I saw this or that on your Twitter.’ But we do have it on the signature of all my e-mails, so they have the opportunity to click on it every day.”

He explains this factor by pointing out that Twitter is generally not as popular among students as other sites such as Facebook.

“In my experience, I don’t feel like Twitter has really caught on quite as much with this demographic as it has with a slightly older population,” Crispino said.

Sophomore point guard Kendrix Brown is an exception to the rule. Brown, who created his account at the beginning of last year, updates his account two or three times each day from his phone and computer.

“I got the hang of it pretty quick, and it was pretty addicting,” Brown said. “I’ve been able to locate friends I haven’t met or haven’t seen in a long time.”

Brown, who finds Twitter easier to use than other social networks such as Facebook, is the only men’s basketball player with a Twitter account. While other Tribe athletes such as women’s basketball player Tasha Pye and volleyball player Ginny Bray have Twitter accounts, Tribe football, by far, has the most Twitter followers.

Sophomore defensive back B.W. Webb is one of the more prolific tweeters on the squad.

“At first I kind of hated Twitter,” Webb said. “But seeing that a lot of people had it, I was like, ‘I guess I’ll give it a try.’”

Webb said uses Twitter as a tool to keep in touch with other players or share jokes with his friends.

While the athletic department currently does not have an official policy in regard to what students may post, athletes have been encouraged by sports information staff to be smart about what they update.

“It’s the right of any student to say what they want, but we tell them to understand what they put in [the] public domain can reflect poorly on them,” Director of Media Relations Pete Clawson said. “There are some inherent dangers of being cavalier with public information.”

Webb said he has been told, in stronger terms, to be careful about what he posts online.

“They just said make sure we watch what we say and don’t say anything too crazy, because it could hurt us in the long run,” Webb said. “They told us that if you put something up there that happens to be bad and they find out, they’ll just cancel Twitter forever.”

Christian spoke of one potential recruit whom he noticed was using the website inappropriately, but believes the problem can be easily avoided with a little bit of oversight.

“There was a student-athlete down the road who was writing some things on his Twitter, and in our conversation I said, ‘Hey man, you just have to be careful,’” Christian said. “Kids can get caught up in the moment of it, and they get caught up in their own little world. And they don’t realize that once you tweet, everyone can see.”

The athletic department has found other uses for the technology as well. A “TribeAthletics” Twitter account was created this summer to keep pace with other athletic programs. Members of the sports information office are told to tweet updates regarding matches whenever possible.

While games can already be followed via live statistics from TribeAthletics.com, these tweets are meant to add interesting anecdotes for fans who may or may not be watching the game, according to Clawson.

“[Twitter] is meant for things that may not be obvious in the stats. For instance, if somebody is going to set a record, a great catch or a big hit,” he said.

Clawson said he hopes that as the Tribe’s following on Twitter grows, attendance at athletic events will do the same.

“It’s more of a marketing tool rather than a media tool,” Clawson said. “It’s about making people aware of our events. Our real hope is that it spreads through the students. They are our most crucial audience.”

The members of the athletic department, however, are not sure what direction Twitter will take.

“It’s something that I think will become a big part of society,” Christian said. “But right now we’re just getting used to it, and I think a lot of people are learning.”

Even those in charge said they are not sure what the future holds.

“There is no long term plan. We are just feeling our way through here,” Clawson said.

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