Michigan 'catfished' athletes to teach social media dangers

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Athletic director David Brandon suggested Friday that the Michigan athletic department had "catfished" some of its own student-athletes to teach them a cautionary lesson on the possible perils of social networking, according to Kyle Rowland of ElevenWarriors.com.

While Brandon never actually used the word "catfished" in describing UM's actions, Rowland reports that the athletic department hired two outside consulting firms to track athletes' use of social media. One of the firms used an attractive female to contact Michigan players on Facebook and some of the athletes' reported responses were inappropriate.


However, associate athletic director Dave Ablauf denied to SI.com that Michigan "catfished" its athletes, claiming the university did not try to establish relationships between fake personalities and its athletes. Speaking with Bill Shea of Crain's Detroit Business, Ablauf went on to say the female never actually made direct contact with the players.

Ablauf's account of what happened contradicts what Brandon and, more directly, head football coach Brady Hoke have said. According to Kyle Meinke of Annarbor.com, Hoke detailed UM's approach as follows:

“Before he came in, we gave him 20 Facebook accounts of guys on our team,” said Hoke, in a January speech to Michigan high school coaches. “She tried to talk to our guys. ‘Hey, what are ya doin’?’ Whatever it might be.

“Well, two months later we’re in a team meeting and we’re on the topic of what you put out there in the cyber universe – you should have seen 115 guys when that young lady – she was hot, now; a very, very nice looking young lady – when she walked into that meeting room, and the guys looking at each other.

“Because some of them didn’t use their heads when communicating back and forth with that young lady.”

Michigan's first social media director, Jordan Miller, resigned in December after it was discovered that she wasn't exactly who she claimed to be. It turned out that Miller did not graduate from Columbia College in Chicago, as stated on her resume. The university hired Miller last February to oversee Michigan's social media program at an annual salary of $100,000.

College athletic programs have been tasked with tutoring their athletes during the social media boom, and have also been affected by high school recruits making social media miscues.

This story has been updated from its original version.