An employee for one of my clients tweeted me yesterday, pointing me to "what happens when you jump into social media unprepared." He was talking about the launch of a new Twitter account by BCSâ€"the Bowl Championship Seriesâ€"the much-maligned system that substitutes for a playoff system for college football teams.
The account, @InsideTheBCS, launched on Thursday and has, since then, accumulated nearly 700 followers. There's no hint about who might be posting the tweets, although one blog suggests the BCS may have farmed the task out to PR agency HDMK, since the first two people to follow the newly-minted account were HDMK staffers, neither of whom returned calls.
One tweet seems to be signed by Bill Hancock, the new BCS executive director.
Regardless of who's behind the account, it has been savaged in a number of quarters since it first appeared. A Twitter search I conducted moments ago produced several pages of messages, even though @InsideTheBCS itself has tweeted only 30 times as of this writing.
To the credit of whoever's writing the tweets, several are responses to what others have said, and some are responses to critical comments. But with hundreds of comments swirling around Twitter, it's evident that @InsideTheBCS is picking and choosing which comments warrant response. There seems to be no rhyme or reason behind these choices.
The core problem, though, is that nobody seems to have considered the inevitability of BCS haters piling on the account the instant it went public. (Disclosure: I'm no fan myself.) Outside of the NCAA, there is broad consensus that a real playoff system is needed to more fairly determine a national champion. It's not just the fans who believe that, but also many college football coaches.
So it comes as no surprise to see a surge of criticism aimed at @InsideTheBCS for its insistence on the complex mathematical computations that it uses to determine who will play whom in the post-season. In fact, one tweet from @InsideTheBCS quoted Florida coach Urban Meyer claiming the BCS "has been great for college football. It's not perfect, but it has been great for college football." This led to another tweet pointing out that Meyer told the New York Times, "The system is a failure. You've got to blow it up and start over" and another that completed the quote cited by @InsideTheBCS: "Followed by laughing and: 'Now I need to go prep for Fla International!'"
A third tweet suggested that Meyer's praise was based on his even deeper disdain for the system that preceded the BCS "that screwed out even more teams because of traditional games."
Much of the piling on has been led by Yahoo sportswriter Dan Wetzel, who has been tweeting quotes from prominent NCAA coaches expressing their disdain for the BCS and otherwise leading the attack with tweets like this one: "It's a good thing the BCS hired an executive director to 'educate the fans.' This Twitter feed is genius."
@InsideTheBCS has responded defensively to a few tweets calling for a playoff series, and has otherwise posted tweets trying to convince everone the system works.
But it's not convincing anybody.
While the BCS may have been unprepared for the volume of vitriol the Twitter feed has produced, it hasn't surprised anyone else. At one blog by a fan of a college team, a post introducing @InsideTheBCS reads, "Oh no they didn't!! They can't be serious. People are going to unload on these guys!! This will be pure comedy..." And a comment left to that post responds, "Read their posts. Total propoganda. Let'em rip!"
The BCS had two choices: Forego a Twitter account of be prepared to truly engage college football fans in a real discussion about the system. The approach the BCS has taken, however, only opens the organization up to even greater ridicule and fans the flames of discontent.
Of course, I'm willing to give the BCS time to figure out its mistake and make a mid-course correction to its approach to Twitter. So far, however, so bad.