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Twitter craze catching on among copycat college football coaches

Football coaches are the ultimate copycats. In the nearly four months since USC coach Pete Carroll joined the ranks of the Twitterers, dozens of Carroll's colleagues have asked their secretaries how to work the Internet and signed up for their own Twitter accounts. Les Miles even told USA Today he may tweet during games. Just imagine ...

LSUCoachMiles: @CharlesScott If you miss that wide-open cutback lane one more time, you'll be washing jock straps for a month.

Now, as tweets provide fans a connection to their teams during the otherwise dead offseason, is the perfect time to examine the Twitter craze sweeping the football complexes at some of the nation's biggest programs. But before we get too serious, let's start by playing a game: Match the tweet with the coach who sent it!

The tweets:1. The interesting part of this will be how ESPN decides to spin the upcoming season.

2. Rules for Living No. 8 -- Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

3. Having a frickin blast down here at lowers... Just talked with kelly slater, legend of all legends in the surfing world... This is awesome

4. Will announce 2009 captains tomorrow on twitter!! Stay tuned!!

5. Wow, was that a long meeting ... Coach O's recruiting meeting just lasted 6 hours ...

The coaches:A. Carroll

B. Minnesota coach Tim Brewster

C. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis

D. Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin

E. West Virginia coach Bill Stewart

The key:1-C, 2-E, 3-A (C'mon, who else would say "frickin"?), 4-B, 5-D.

OK, I gave you the Lane Kiffin one for free, but only to provide you the sheer joy that comes from imagining Kiffin, his father, Monte, and the rest of Tennessee's staff spending six hours watching assistant head coach/force of nature Ed Orgeron map out the Volunteers' recruiting strategy.

Those are just a handful of examples. While a certain national championship coach who shall remain nameless started his page with tweets that looked suspiciously like the work of a sports information intern who should have been putting together the cross country media guide, the mystery coach's recent tweets seem like original compositions. Glimpses into the minds of millionaire coaches should prove useful for fans and recruits alike. Weis, for example, fired an eight-tweet salute May 11 that provided fascinating insight into ESPN College Football Live's weeklong look at Notre Dame's program. All month, Weis has tipped off fans each time he began studying a new 2009 opponent. And on Mother's Day, LSU's Miles sent this tweet that offered a lesson every man should heed: Whether you make $3.75 million or $37,500, the surest way to score husband points is to treat the wife to ice cream mixed with sprinkles on a frozen hunk of rock. "Mother's day was great -- took Kathy to movie and then for ice cream at Marble Slab," Miles tweeted.

But Twitter isn't an outlet for all musings. There are rules. Coaches shouldn't, for example, send a tweet that violates NCAA regulations. On May 19, however, Tennessee had to report a secondary violation when an unidentified staffer posted the following message to Kiffin's Twitter feed: "It's a beautiful day in Knoxville, Tennessee today. I was so exited to hear that J.C. Copeland committed to play for the Vols today!" Copeland, a ferocious defensive end from LaGrange, Ga., did indeed commit to Tennessee, but NCAA rules forbid coaches from commenting on a prospect until he signs a letter-of-intent. Tennessee officials removed the offending post after 45 minutes, but anyone who searched "lanekiffinUT" on Twitter could still find it for the next seven days. Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno certainly saw it, because he threw this jab at the Volunteers on his own feed May 20: "Good month recruiting so far....but don't look for any UT/NCAA-violation type Twitters from us."

It's best to avoid using Twitter to hurl insults, too. Minnesota's Brewster learned that after this tweet appeared on April 14: "How would you like to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror...... if your [sic] Fat Pat." The reference to Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse quickly disappeared from Play4brew's Twitter page, but the folks at the sublimely monikered Iowa blog Black Heart Gold Pants had been following Brewster's tweets using an RSS feed, which doesn't retroactively delete posts. Naturally, they posted a screen shot. Brewster's crime wasn't attacking Reusse, a frequent critic. It was settling for such low-hanging fruit. Poking fun at a sportswriter's waistline is about as creative as mocking a football coach's grammar.

Also, coaches probably should set a midnight deadline for new tweets. In the wee hours one recent weekend morning, the following tweets tumbled from Illinois coach Ron Zook's feed. They have since disappeared from Zook's page, but remained visible to followers using RSS readers and to anyone who searched "ronzook" on Twitter.com for seven days after the post.

RonZook: Is that all U got

RonZook: Please. Come here

There can only be two possible explanations for these messages. Either Zook was calling friends together to quote his favorite line from Mickey Rourke's career-reviving turn in Sin City, or he was calling friends together so he could accept Twitter follower kinsella316's challenge of a push-up contest between himself and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Coaches also should understand fans don't get all their news through official channels. So sending a positive-spin tweet while the mainstream media deliver legitimate bad news comes off as desperate. For example, South Florida coach Jim Leavitt sent this tweet on May 6: "Our athletes averaged over 3.0 Now that is big!" Unfortunately for Leavitt, his tweet hit the Web at about the same time the NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rates statistics. USF's football team had the lowest APR of any BCS-conference program.

Finally, someone needs to fill in coaches on the concept of intellectual property. The Stewart tweet quoted above is part of a series he calls "Mountaineers Rules for Living." These rules, usually erroneously credited to Microsoft founder Bill Gates, were written by conservative pundit Charles J. Sykes. Sykes does not receive credit on Stewart's page.

Despite its pitfalls, Twitter can serve as an oasis of information in a desert of restricted access. For example, though Alabama assistant coaches rarely grant interviews, they do tweet on the program's official Twitter page. So now we know tight ends coach Bobby Williams recruited in Florida on May 6, the same day defensive line coach Bo Davis recruited in Mississippi. We also know that on May 11, first-year linebackers coach Sal Sunseri -- a Pittsbrugh native -- finally found a decent Italian joint: "i finally found my italian place in alabama- just had an unbelievable meal at Leonardo's in vestavia hills ... Best in Bama."

Restaurants aren't the only things coaches recommend. Over on the basketball side, Kentucky coach John Calipari suggests several books a week. Meanwhile, in Troy, D.J. Petey typically offers a song a day. Carroll, who got slammed in this space last year for listing The Fray as one of his favorite bands on his Facebook page, has eclectic tastes, but he'll rarely steer you wrong. On Monday, May 11, he plugged Kids by trip-poppers MGMT. On Friday, May 8, he dedicated Nena's 99 Luftballoons to disgraced slugger Manny Ramirez.

One coach has already bailed on Twitter. Tuesday, Syracuse's Doug Marrone tweeted this: "Taking a break from Twitter.Thanks for all the support.Check out @suorangeempire for exclusive fb info. See you at the Dome in Sept." Still, expect a few more coaches to jump on board before this fad gets beaten too deep into the ground. Also, expect plenty of impostors. On May 13, someone claiming to be Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt sent this Tweet: "going to Lowes to buy ladders and cinder blocks. Building a fence around Mississippi brother!!!" An athletic department spokesman confirmed the author was a shameless fake and not the right reverend himself. While Nutt hasn't let his Twit flag fly, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt went live with his feed earlier this month.

If there is any justice in this world, Wannstedt's mustache will start Tweeting by July.

Also See:Sean Gregory: Twitter craze hits sports worldBest Tweeters by Sport:NBA | NFL | MLB | Olympics | Best of RestGallery:Greatest Moments in Sports Twitter historyTime.com Cover Story:How Twitter is changing our lives

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