Way before the dangers of social media were illuminated by the Manti Te'o hoax, the University of Michigan was taking steps to educate some of its athletes about the pitfall of Facebook and Twitter.
But late Friday afternoon, the school was denying it had used "catfish" tactics to teach athletes a lesson. Catfishing is the term for intentionally trying to deceive another person about one's real identity online. Last month, Notre Dame linebacker Te'o made headlines as the subject of a catfishing hoax.
Speaking earlier Friday in Toledo, Ohio, athletic director Dave Brandon revealed how the school hired two consulting firms to monitor how student-athletes were behaving on social media.
"One of the two consulting groups utilized a young, attractive woman to go online and contact student-athletes," the Toledo Blade reported.
"Did anyone take the bait? Some of them did, and established contact online with her.
"The unnamed woman turned over to athletic department officials posts and comments that were made to her, and the names of student-athletes. During a presentation to Michigan's student-athletes regarding social media awareness, the athletic department introduced the woman to the student athletes," the newspaper said.
Brandon said some of responses were "wholly inappropriate" and that some of the athletes were "shocked" to see the woman.
But late Friday afternoon, Dave Ablauf, a Michigan associate athletic director, told the Detroit Free Press that Michigan did not "catfish" its athletes but rather was using "media-relations experts," to help educate student-athletes about social media.
"We use it as an educational process," Ablauf said. "It wasn't catfishing. It's being misconstrued. They didn't go to that extent (like Te'o's situation). There was no interaction like a catfish.
"They weren't going down that path. This wasn't us trying to trick anyone."
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