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Twitter and College Athletes

December 18th, 2013 . by Justin Woodard

Twitter iconTwitter, along with many other social media websites that exist today, is popular in the journalism profession. Reporters use Twitter to report the news, while athletes, whether collegiate or professional, often use Twitter to get their news and keep up with the world.

Social media can be dangerous for anyone who doesn’t choose their words carefully, but it can be especially dangerous for college athletes because they are often under a bigger radar representing the university in so many ways.

When athletic programs at any given school are competitive like they are at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, athletes and coaches must be wise when it comes to tweeting. Competing at a high level will bring more attention to any program, so athletes on UW-Whitewater’s campus just need to be careful about what they say.

Considering the risky business Twitter can be when an athlete accidentally slips, should there be some sort of limit on how much a college athlete is allowed to use the website?  It has happened at the professional level in sports on more than one occasion and coaches across campus hope to educate their players on the proper procedure.

If a college athlete says something out of line or if he or she uses some bad language on Twitter, it can hurt their chances at a professional career, let alone anything else. If a professional athlete says something ignorant or ill-minded on Twitter the media will be all over it, and the athlete may be haunted for some time if not forever by unintended, heat of the moment tweets.

Michael McKnight is a writer for SI.com and he wrote an article last July on Twitter on the modern athlete. He talks about current New York Giants defensive back Will Hill and his troubles with ignorant tweets. McKnight said that Hill openly discussed sex and marijuana on his Twitter feed while in college. He went undrafted and spent a year in the Arena Football League before making the Giants roster.

Other ignorant tweets that have been in the news recently include Matt Barnes of the Los Angeles Clippers calling out his teammates for being “soft” after he was ejected for defending a teammate. He tweeted angrily from the locker room right after the incident, but apologized later.

Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito are former Miami Dolphins offensive linemen who are suspended indefinitely due to a racial voicemail and some back and forth on the Twitter feed. And even though some may say Chad Johnson, or Chad Ochocinco, is out of football for being washed up, some others might say he was more worried about tweeting than playing football.

Despite all of this negative banter among professional adult athletes, coaches and athletes alike believe putting any sort of restrictions on Twitter for their athletes is nearly impossible. Between First Amendment rights like freedom of speech and monitoring something that large being a difficult task, Twitter restrictions for college athletes is an unlikely outlet.

The NCAA has its regulations for each division of college athletics and instead of trying to monitor college athletes in a world of billions on the web, they have a simple message for athletes. “As social media continues to evolve and change at a rapid pace, please use your best judgment.”

Amy Edmonds, Interim Athletic Director at UW-Whitewater, has just taken over for Dr. Paul Plinske after he took the same position elsewhere, this semester but she has been an assistant athletic director for a couple of years prior. She is well aware of the regulations set up by the NCAA when it comes to social media, and she feels they are strict enough.

“Pretty much every institution comes with the idea of education,” Edmonds said. “No one has mandated rules or penalties associated with it (Twitter), generally most folks take the idea of education.”

Edmonds pointed out what most, if not all coaches try to teach, and that is to educate rather than regulate when it comes to social media. The Warhawk men’s basketball team won a national championship in 2012, and they have been competitive for a few years now. Head coach Pat Miller has been a big part of the team’s success, and a main focus of his is to continuously educate his players.

“Personally, in a perfect world, I’d be happy if they were never on Twitter, but with the way things have changed with social media whether it is Facebook or Twitter I think that is just a part of the culture,” Miller said. “Instead of battling that I think it is important to educate them on what is appropriate.”

Even though everyone’s voice is heard on Twitter, athletes are often noticed more than the ordinary person. The popular players, collegiate or professional, are certainly noticed, so they must be more careful than others when it comes to voicing opinion on social media.

UW-Whitewater is not a division I school like UW-Madison or Ohio State University that gets a lot of national attention, but with the Warhawks football program being noticed on national TV so often lately, the school does get noticed.

The football program at UW-Whitewater is nationally known as a division III powerhouse, but many don’t know that the athletic program as a whole is very competitive. The recent national championships in football (2011) and in men’s basketball (2012) have already been mentioned, and the football team plays in the Stagg Bowl again this year against a familiar foe the Mount Union Raiders.

But the competitive success goes way beyond those popular sports at the university. In 2012 alone, the university won five different national titles. Along with football and men’s basketball, they won a title in men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball and they also won a title in gymnastics.

The women’s basketball team finished as runner-up to the national title last year falling to an undefeated (34-0) DePauw University. In 2012 the wrestling team had its best conference finish in many years, and the volleyball team has been very competitive in the last five to ten years winning it all in 2008. Even both the men’s and women’s tennis teams compete at a high level year after year.

The Warhawks have even proven their dominance in multiple club sports over the years. Among the various championships won over the past five years or so in men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball, the men’s rugby team has had recent success. Despite falling just short this season finishing in third place, they won a national championship in 2011.

The student athletes on campus understand Twitter and they know how to be smart. They have been in the spotlight, and they know how to present themselves to the world. Players from the men’s basketball team like Quardell Young and Cody Odegaard have been on the big stage as a part of the national championship team in 2012, and they are both frequent Twitter users. Players from the women’s team like Abbie Reeves and Mary Merg were a big part of the women’s team that had a shot at a national title last season, and they are both frequent Twitter users.

These student athletes, like many student athletes, use Twitter to find out recent news, and keep up with people close to them who also use Twitter.

“I use it to keep up with friends and entertainment purposes, you know social media,” Merg said. “I use it to keep up with the world around me. I follow celebrities, athletes, sportscenter, and stuff like that.”

Merg, like many athletes her age, grew up in the age of social media and everything that goes with it.

“I wouldn’t say I use it to keep up with friends because most people I follow on Twitter I still keep in touch with any ways,” Odegaard said. “I get a lot of sports stuff from Twitter, and stuff like photos and funny comedy things that I follow.”

“For me it’s a friend thing, personal thoughts, sports world, you know it’s kind of like a news feed,” Young said. “If anything big goes on in the world, it will be on Twitter in a matter of seconds.”

These athletes are like most people in the world, they are not looking to cause problems, and they just want to know what is going on in the world around them. They understand that Twitter is a voice for everyone in the world, and they must be on their best behavior when speaking to the public. These student athletes have futures of their own that they don’t want to jeopardize, and they have many younger people following them and looking up to them.

“Are coaches just remind us that we are all adults we know what’s right and wrong,” Reeves said. “Stay away from swearing because we have little kids who come to our games and that follow us on Instagram and Twitter. So we try to be careful what we say on there, be careful with photos, and watch what we retweet. So we just have to be smart and use our heads.”

Being smart is the key and most, if not all, athletes know how to use Twitter respectively. While most coaches are comfortable enough to admit their players are smart enough to use Twitter on their own, educating is never a bad idea.

“Make sure they understand that anything they put out there is out there forever,” Miller said.  “Employers look at those things, so anything you say on there can come back to bite you in the future so be responsible if you’re going to use it (Twitter).”

While most coaches are on Twitter and other social media websites on campuses across the country, some are knew to this world just this year. Wrestling head coach Tim Fader and women’s head basketball coach Keri Carollo are both new to Twitter this school year. Like Miller, they see the website as a useful “marketing tool” and “a good way to get your name out there.”

“This summer I went to a convention in Florida and they talked about the possibilities for your sports program, especially wrestling,” Fader said. “If you want to communicate to your fans and to your recruits then you need the most current ways. You need to speak their language.”

Like Fader, coach Carollo is new to the world of Twitter, but she understands its possibilities of further promoting an already successful program in the ever changing world of social media.

“Along with Facebook and Vine and all those other things out there I think it (Twitter) is a good way to get information out there,” Carollo said. “It can be abused and over used at times when people say hurtful things personally or about our program, but for the most part it has been a very positive thing for us.”

Despite some negative things said about Twitter and the negative consequences that go along with using Twitter inappropriately, it can be great tool for both journalism and those in the sports world. It can be especially important as long users understand how to use it.

“Twitter is useful tool for anyone to get their brand out there, for one,” Edmonds said. “It can be a very important and significant tool, but unfortunately, some folks abuse it too. So anybody that is on Twitter has to be educated on one, what their purpose of being on there is, and two, what they want to get out of it and what their brand is going to be within it.”

While the NCAA has looked into it, there is really no practical way of monitoring college athletes on Twitter all across the United States. Besides, college students are adults and they have every right to speak their mind like any other citizen in our country. Not only would monitoring Twitter like that be nearly impossible, it would be illegal.

The NCAA already has a specific set of guidelines for athletes and coaches to follow, and the coaches do a fine job of educating their pupils on the dangers of Twitter.

“We try to emphasize it is not a personal thing and that it’s a public domain,” Miller said. “Anything they put on there is for public consumption and even if you take something off people are going to be able to access it. I don’t know that you can restrict their ability to communicate. When you are dealing with people in the 18-22 year old range, they unfortunately make mistakes and they do things they’re probably going to regret later in life like all of us did, so you just try to educate and regulate.”

The bottom line is, as long as athletes understand Twitter is not a personal thing, they will be able to make smart decisions. With a little guidance from coaching staffs player don’t need babysitters, or anyone to watch what they say, they are college students not idiots.


2014 Budget Exceeds $80 Million

November 19th, 2013 . by Justin Woodard

The Jefferson County Board met last Tuesday at the Courthouse in Jefferson, Wis. to finalize the proposed budget for 2014. The estimated expenditures for the coming year exceed $80 million dollars at $83,368,682, which exceeds the 2013 budget by almost $20 million dollars.

The tax levy for this coming year is at $25,101,310 with a mill rate of 4.2655. So if an owner’s home is assessed at $100,000 they will owe the county $426.55.

While county governments do some things independently, a lot of their services regulated are state mandated. Counties are required to look after law enforcement facilities and maintain health care departments in their region.

Jefferson County Chairman John Molinaro said that Human services and health care are their priorities followed by maintaining the sheriff’s department and the highway department. Looking after parks and other recreational departments round out the top five services Molinaro and his fellow members focus on.

Even though human services and health care usually come first in order of importance, the highway department can take the blame for the extra money being spent in 2014. The county will spend anywhere from $15 million to $17 million to build a new highway shop at the site of the Countryside Home along County Highway W.

For those who believe building this new highway shop is an unnecessary investment, Molinaro believes otherwise.

“The large heated storage for snow plows and other large equipment is imperative for us,” Molinaro said. “If you put them back into cold storage the next morning you wake up and you can’t run the machine because of a frozen engine.”

Molinaro went on to say that the facility will be 60 percent heated storage and the other 40 percent would be cold storage. Summer equipment such as lawn mowers will be kept in cold storage. The new highway shop will also include a welding shop, mechanic bay for repairs and office space.

The office space will be used to train highway department officials during the day, and be used to hold meetings in the evening. There will also be more storage for things like soil or gravel that are needed on a regular basis.

There were seven proposed amendments to the budget and all but one of them was turned down by the board members on Tuesday. The board members agreed on accepting $1,140,000 to cover the cost of demolishing the old Countryside Home, but all other proposed amendments were shot down.

County Board Member Jim Schroeder proposed adding $3,000,000 to the budget to help develop bike trails throughout the county. But it was turned down because Finance Committee Member Dick Jones and others did not want to jeopardize the highway project.

Board Member George Jaeckel proposed removing a total of $55,000 from the Parks budget in order to improve the sheriff’s department. His proposal was denied.

“I have a real hard time seeing $40,000 being spent on equipment used only for grooming trails,” Jaeckel said. “We don’t need $15,000 for equipment used to pick up dog poop or move brush.”

The other four proposed amendments were brought up by Board Member Gregory Torres, and they all were related to removing money from the Parks budget in order to be spent more wisely elsewhere. All four of Mr. Torres’ amendments were denied.

A lot of the money that Torres wanted removed is being used to improve parks and other things associated with outdoor activities. Board Member Greg David was enthusiastic on keeping this money where it has already been placed.

“Recreational development is what people of Jefferson County want and I think we should give it to them,” David said.

While many of the county board members were in favor of spending all this money, some of the older members are worried about the financial status of the county 20 or so years down the road. Board Member Carlton Zentner, who was in favor of many of Mr. Torres’ proposed amendments, shed a little light on the future of Jefferson County.

“We have never really recovered from the 2008 financial crisis at the state, county and local level,” Zentner said. “We are spending a lot of money with no boundaries. It seems we need more maturity in our budget because we are spending too much money.”


Beloit College Football Loses Season Finale

November 12th, 2013 . by Justin Woodard

Beloit-College-Logo

By, Justin Woodard

Daily News Correspondent

Despite losing 40-17 to Carroll University Pioneers (5-4) in the regular season finale at Strong Stadium on Saturday, The Beloit College Buccaneers (1-9) did some positive things heading into the offseason.

The defense caused three forced fumble turnovers and freshman halfback Mason Dixon ran for 136 yards on 28 carries along with a TD. Even the passing game went well on Saturday while QB’s Evan Phillips and Kameron Sallee combined for 144 passing yards with a TD.

The score looks worse than how the game actually went for the Bucs. If it wasn’t for a fake punt TD allowed and a fumble on a first and goal to go, the outcome may have been a lot different. Head coach Chris Brann was pleased with the way his team played despite a few mental errors.

“We are 70 to 75 percent freshman and sophomores so we are a pretty young team,” Brann said. “I think the game was a lot closer than the score, and I feel like we definitely progressed in the last game of the season.  I hope the guys will come back next year excited to begin a new season.”

Rough Start

On the Pioneers opening drive the Bucs held them to a fourth and short. But the Pioneers punter Matt Traub took a fake punt to the endzone, and after a missed pat, they led early 6-0. On the Bucs opening drive Dixon ran for a couple of first downs, but they ended up turning the ball over on downs.

After two plays the Pioneers were in the endzone again when halfback Lamont Williams scored his first of three TD’s on a 52 yard run. Sean Kivlin made this pat and they led 13-0. Williams was a workhorse for the Pioneers on the day scoring three TD’s on 23 carries and 189 yards.

Each team punted before Phillips threw a pick six with about 5:15 left in the first quarter and the Pioneers took a commanding 20-0 lead. The Bucs’ Lukeson Versulien returned the ensuing kickoff to the Pioneer 27 yard line. The Bucs got down inside the 10 yard line but had to settle for a 23 yard field goal from Sallee.

Beloit Bucs Swing Momentum

The Bucs trailed 20-3 after one quarter, but the defense came out with a little extra in the tank to start the second quarter. The Bucs managed to drive the ball down to the Pioneer one yard line before Phillips turned the ball over again with a fumble. Just when all hopes could have went down the drain, the Bucs returned the favor with a fumble recovery of their own around midfield by David Lafayette.

The Bucs didn’t get any points out of the first fumble recovery but the defense was at it again later in the quarter when Derell Carter recovered another Carroll fumble. Dixon’s hard running eventually paid off as he punched one in from five yards out. After the good pat, the Bucs trailed the Pioneers 20-10 going into halftime with a little momentum.

“We went into halftime down by ten and I honestly thought we went in with a little momentum,” Brann said. “We got the opening kickoff but went three and out, so obviously we would have liked to go down and pull within three but it didn’t work out that way.”

Following the three and out by the Bucs, Williams scored his second of three TD’s for the Pioneers and they led 27-10. The Bucs would score again in the second half when Sallee connected with Versulien on a 49 yard TD pass. But unfortunately for the Bucs, the power running game by the Pioneers proved to be too much for them to handle.

For the seniors Saturday was their last game in a Buccaneer uniform, the 2014 season could be bright. Dixon is only a freshman and the rest of the team is quite young. Many of them will be back for next season looking to improve.

For more information on the Beloit Bucs you can go to their website, and for more information on the Carroll Pioneers simply go to their website.

Beloit-College-Logo


Keeping it Energy Efficient

September 24th, 2013 . by Justin Woodard

Whitewater, Wis.-During last Tuesday’s Council meeting, City Manager Cameron Clapper and other council members entered an agreement with H2O Score to help residents better keep track of water being used in their homes by simply checking online.

In this ever growing world of technological advancements it seems like the internet can be used to do just about anything. McGee Young, a professor of Political Science at the University of Milwaukee, has introduced this H20 Score program in other cities in Wisconsin such as Waukesha and Milwaukee. Young says residents in those cities are excited about the program and he hopes to bring that sort of excitement to Whitewater.

“It will be something neat if we can see this through,” Young said. “When we pull together as a community we can do some amazing things.”

Young said in his presentation that 15 percent of our total electricity is used to pump, clean, and distribute water.

“H20 Score helps communities understand and manage their water use,” Young said. “Personalized online dashboards make it easy to see how water is used and how it is wasted.”

Here is a link to view Young’s presentation from the council meeting agenda packet. The H20 Score information begins on page 95 and ends on page 110.  http://www.whitewater-wi.gov/images/stories/agendas/common_council/2013/2013-0917_Complete_Packet_2.pdf

Councilman James Winship of District No. 3 was pleased with Young’s presentation and encouraged people to see how it goes.

“The price is right and it is a valuable process. It will be interesting work for students, and it needs to be publicized,” Winship said.

While the city is improving efforts to cut down on water usage, it is also improving efforts to keep cleaner sewage systems throughout the city. Tim Reel, Superintendent of Wastewater Utility, says sanitary sewer smoke testing will be occurring on the west side of town this week.

“During the examination, smoke will be blown through the sanitary sewers from a manhole. Smoke will then appear from any roof drains, catch basins, or home ventilation stacks connected to the system,” Reel said.

The testing begins on Monday, Sept. 23 and Clapper encourages anyone who sees smoke to get a hold of Reel.

“People should not be afraid of getting slapped with a major fine,” Clapper said. “If you have a break in the line it can be a big contributor to sewer waste getting into the system.”

Although city officials have been doing everything in their power to keep unsanitary water out of clean water systems, they have also been having some trouble directing rain water where it needs to go. Chuck Nass, Parks and Recreations Director of Whitewater, as noted the flooding problems residents are having on Church Street and Whitewater Street as well as the Indian Mounds subdivision.

“With dips in the road the water doesn’t have anywhere to go,” Nass said. “Too much water is coming into the sewers and not enough is going out.”

Nass has asked that some of the drains be widened or made longer in order for more water to drain at a time. As of right now, the drainpipes let in more water than they let out, so water is not going underground fast enough and backyards are flooding.

Nass pointed out that much of the flooding is occurring in district No. 4, which is overseen by the council Vice President Lynn Binnie.

“Residents are having frequent flooding problems so we need to get this fixed,” Binnie said.

The topic of saving water and saving energy was a big part of Tuesday’s council meeting, but Clapper also took some time at the end to discuss early thoughts on the upcoming 2014 city budget to be presented in full at the Oct. 1 meeting.

“The budget can be, and should be a policy guide for the year,” Clapper said. “It is an operational tool and a performance tool.”

With the budget being in its preliminary stages there will be no need to go into detail at this time.

In other Council news:

  • Brown Cab hopes to extend running hours on M-W-F
  • Liquor license approved transfer from Downstairs Sports Bar to Day n Nite
  • A few unnecessary parking meters being removed

Hello world!

September 10th, 2013 . by Justin Woodard

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