Dabo Swinney is a Machiavellian coach—a man who believes that the ends justify the means.
Even if those means involve intruding (slightly) on free expression.
According to Kerry Capps of OrangeandWhite.com, Swinney has banned his Clemson Tigers from using Twitter during the season. In his own words:
The technology is fascinating, and all that’s happened in past 10-15 years. But it’s also very dangerous. We try to do a good job of educating our guys and correcting bad behavior when we get it. But then once as we get into the season, we’ll put all that stuff on the shelf. ...
If they say just one little thing just a little wrong—and these are young people—and in the world we live in, it's a firestorm and I'm having to deal with it. I don't like distractions—I hate distractions.
It's a little—OK, a lot—draconian, but Swinney's policy actually holds some merit from a pragmatic point of view.
It's a simple calculation of pros versus cons. For every Teddy Bridgewater visiting a sick student in the hospital, there are 10 Johnny Manziels sending combative tweets to trolls. The platform is useful as a way to aggregate news, but Swinney knows that's not what his players are doing.
They're using it as a way to become the news.
Those are distractions Swinney can't afford right now, and neither can his team. The Tigers harbor BCS national championship aspirations, which will require Zen-like focus for the next five months. And never is that more important than leading up to Week 1, when they'll face their stiffest test in the form of the Georgia Bulldogs.
This policy is sure to face some in-house backlash from players. Twitter is a viral form of communication among college students, and banning it from athletes removes them further from an organic college experience—something they've already sacrificed, in many ways, in order to play a sport.
Even so, defensive end Shaq Lawson seems to be taking it pretty well:
Last night on twitter it's time for camp #TigerNation— Shaq Lawson (@Shaq_Lawson90) August 1, 2013
In this play book studying my plays. Y'all can have the partying. My main focus is to remain focused.. #TigerNation— Shaq Lawson (@Shaq_Lawson90) August 1, 2013
Swinney knows it's better to be feared than loved. In this case, if his players are prudent enough to appreciate his motives, there's no reason he can't be both.