Tennessee takes more progressive approach to social media than its peers

At a time when many prominent programs are hiring companies to monitor their players' use of social media or banning players from posting on Twitter or Facebook altogether, Tennessee is taking the opposite approach.

Earlier this month, associate media relations director Tom Satkowiak added basketball players' twitter handles to their roster bios on the school's official athletics site. It's a subtle change, but it demonstrates how Tennessee's attitude toward social media differs from other schools.

"I cringe every time I see a coach or program ban the use of social media," Satkowiak said. "I think we should be educating guys on how to use it because it's not going to go away. It's a part of life now. We just need to educate them on how to use it right."

The explosion of social media during the past few years has created numerous headaches for scandal-wary athletic departments. Players have posted racy photos on Instagram, made crude or bigoted jokes on Twitter or even revealed potential NCAA violations on Facebook, leading some coaches to restrict their teams' ability to use social media or ban it altogether.

Among the programs that have implemented season-long team-wide social media bans the past few years are Boise State football, New Mexico basketball and Villanova basketball. Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher banned his players from Twitter this week for the second time after defensive back Tyler Hunter went on a controversial rant that included profane and racial content.

To avoid similar incidents at Tennessee, Satkowiak wisely favors education rather than censorship. He runs a social media seminar that student-athletes are encouraged to attend during summer school and he often addresses the basketball team at the end of practice with the blessing of Cuonzo Martin, sometimes handing out photocopies of pictures or tweets that landed players from other teams in trouble.

Tennessee players have made a few mistakes, but Satkowiak said they've largely been vigilant about the social media content they post.

"If I can teach guys to represent the school the right way and use social media as a branding tool for themselves, then it makes me more comfortable putting it out there," Satkowiak said. "I know it's a calculated risk since they're 18, 19 years old, but we've tried to be as proactive as we can."