USC athletic director Pat Haden uses Manti Te’o's situation as a teachable moment

The story of Manti Te’o and his fake/dead/risen-from-the-dead girlfriend was one of the most unbelievable that has ever been attached to a collegiate athlete, but that didn’t mean other universities couldn’t use it as a teaching moment.

USC athletic director Pat Haden sent an email to all student-athletes Friday warning them about the dangers of social media.

[Dan Wetzel: What's not to believe about Teo's confession?]

Here is the body of the email:

“Dear Trojan Student-Athlete:

In light of the unfortunate and still-unfolding “catfishing” situation occurring with Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, I thought it is important to remind you of the unique social media challenges you face as a USC student-athlete.

We talk constantly that you have “no private moments” as a USC student-athlete. Everything you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. is being eyeballed not only by your friends, but by many others, including Trojan fans, the media, the NCAA, your teachers and future employers … even if your settings are private. And the prevalence of cell phone cameras makes it easy to catch you in an inappropriate moment that can lead to online embarrassment.

Furthermore, as we are seeing in the Te’o case, not everybody in the virtual world has your best intentions in mind. Please be careful not only what you post online, but with whom you communicate. Not everybody is who they appear to be. As a USC student-athlete, you are particularly vulnerable.

Remember, you are representing yourself (and your personal brand), your family, your team and your University. Be smart on what you post and who your friend so that your good reputation is not harmed.”

Of course, USC has had its own issues with social media, especially during bowl season. Two players made remarks about El Paso during the Sun Bowl and upset both bowl officials and the people of the city hosting them.

While Te’o’s situation of being conned into believing he had a real girlfriend who died of Leukemia only to reappear claiming she faked her death to escape drug dealers probably won’t happen to one of USC’s players, Haden felt like this was a good opportunity to readdress social media responsibility.

“This is just the latest in our effort to constantly educate our student athletes on the smart use of social media and their online presence,” athletic department spokesman Tim Tessalone said. “We start the day they get here and do it in a variety of ways — with talks, seminars, guest speakers, emails and other things.

“Pat thought this was a teachable moment.”

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