Editorial: Athletes increasingly can effect change through social media


Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson congratulates Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, right, after a 63-47 Michigan win at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Saturday, October 19, 2013. (Jarrad Henderson/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Thursday felt like deja vu for Illinois football.

This time, it was another team and another coach: Indiana football’s Kevin Wilson.

Rumors were circling the entire day that Wilson was to be fired for coaching abuse. Indiana University held a press conference later that day, and Athletic Director Fred Glass announced that Wilson resigned after several weeks of meetings.

Glass gave Wilson credit for his many contributions to the program and said there were no NCAA compliance issues. He announced Defensive Coordinator Tom Allen as the permanent head coach.

Contrary to Illinois’ Simon Cvijanovic, whose tweets started a public questioning and school investigation into former head coach Tim Beckman, there was no outright display of problems with the Hoosiers before Thursday.

In 2015, the Indianapolis Star reported that one player’s father appealed to the athletic department on how his son was treated after an injury and there began an external investigation. The results led to Wilson’s resignation.

From what has been released so far, it seems that Indiana handled the problem well. As soon as the father approached Indiana, the school responded with the investigation, highlighting the commitment to student athletes that Glass has preached.

Times are changing in college athletics. Twitter gave Cvijanovic a platform to speak. His tweets restructured an entire athletic department.

It’s fair to say that without those tweets, there would be no Josh Whitman or Lovie Smith appointments.

Tim Beckman might still be leading the Illini, injured players and all.

Instead, with social media and the current political climate, athletes now have a voice to address issues relevant to athletics. Political problems, such as racism at Wisconsin, were brought to attention through social media, as evidenced by basketball standout Nigel Hayes’ tweets.

In our social media-centered world, student-athletes have a grave responsibility to speak up when abuse happens. Cvijanovic was a victim of an “old-school” coach who didn’t believe he could push his players too hard. Based on the reporting coming out of Bloomington, Wilson seems to be from the same tree.

Without the help of a simple tweet, the future of Illinois athletics, and perhaps athletics at other colleges, wouldn’t have changed. Perhaps Cvijanovic didn’t feel comfortable enough to talk to a reporter or the administration; the send button was an easier option, and understandably so.

More players will turn to social media to let their voices be heard regarding injustice. And in an era of easily accessible platforms comes the responsibility of serving your teammates and fellow athletes — because sometimes the coach might not have their best interests in mind.