Mark Gottfried Connects With NC State Fans on Twitter With “#FreeRodneyPurvis” Hashtag

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 10th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The advent of interactive web-based communication services like Twitter, Facebook and blogs has allowed coaches to connect with fans in a more direct and personal way than ever before. We witnessed an excellent example of this newfound coach-fan correspondence this summer when Kentucky head coach John Calipari, addressing UK fans directly as “Big Blue Nation,” explained in a long-form blog post on his personal website his new “nontraditional” scheduling philosophy as a roundabout way of rationalizing his refusal to continue the program’s decades-long home-and-home series with border rival Indiana. In “Forming a nontraditional schedule for a nontraditional program,” Calipari focuses on three main points: “Preparing our players for the postseason”, “our fans” and “the financial component.” He laid out his thoughts eloquently, a thoroughly-composed argument that shone some light on why he dared put an end to one of the nation’s deepest and most hostile hardwood conflicts.

With Purvis’ eligibility in question, Gottfried is offering comforting words to Wolfpack fans (Photo credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Calipari’s philosophy (and staunch insistence on playing at neutral sites, such as Lucas Oil Arena) didn’t jibe well with Hoosiers coach Tom Crean, who feared the idea of UK staging an annual recruiting fair in his program’s backyard metropolis, Indianapolis. The talks fell through, and college hoops fans nationwide will lament the loss of one of the sport’s most riveting ongoing territorial battles. But Calipari’s direct approach in addressing UK’s legions of fans made sense in more ways than one. Rather than voice his opinion through the traditional media, Calipari proceeded to convey his thoughts via his own personal mouthpiece. It was forthright, frank and an altogether noble gesture from a man who, even to his own fans, seems to exist within his own impenetrable realm of coaching regality.

Which is why it’s so refreshing to see North Carolina State coach and Twitter devotee Mark Gottfried connect with his fans on an issue that could threaten to derail the Wolfpack’s high hopes for the upcoming season. Incoming freshman Rodney Purvis, the crown jewel of NC State’s loaded 2012 recruiting class, is having trouble clearing the NCAA’s requisite eligibility checkpoints. The NCAA is reviewing the legitimacy of Purvis’ coursework at Upper Room Christian Academy, which this year graduated Purvis as a member of the school’s first-ever senior class. It’s unlikely Purvis will be ineligible to play next season, but he’s already a step behind in preseason preparation having missed the team’s recent trip to Spain. In what amounted to a plea for Purvis’ return, Gottfried took to his favorite social media service Sunday and beamed out an enthusiastic message to his 16,000+ followers. Per the Raleigh News & Observer:

  • Gottfried wrote on his Twitter account Sunday that Purvis has “has worked hard and hopefully he will join us soon.” He ended the tweet with “#freerodneypurvis.”
  • Gottfried wrote again Monday that “we miss @rpurvs_0” with the same hash tag.

The well-intentioned dispatches – Gottfried simply relayed a sentiment presumably shared by a large portion of Wolfpack fans – provided a sincere token of encouragement for a fan base that has long desired the sort of regional and national success NC State looks primed to deliver. It was a point-blank way of directing a widely-shared viewpoint to an audience who, above all else, appreciates honesty and candor from their program’s designated leader. Of course, Gottfried’s actions weren’t as unilaterally rosy as one might think. Boiling this down to a simple positive fan-coach Twitter communiqué is to lose sight of the hashtag Gottfried cleverly deployed as a conclusive plug for groundswell support. The “#FreeRodneyPurvis” movement has created quite a stir on the service’s public interface, and while a grassroots Twitter campaign is unlikely to speed up the NCAA’s procedural work on Purvis’ transcripts, the fans now have a clear and convincing way to voice their frustration.

For all the negative repercussions stemming from high-profile athletes’ insensitive Twitter remarks, Calipari and Gottfried shed a positive light on the ever-growing social media service and how it can facilitate a legitimate pipeline for conveying important news and fostering a more kindred relationship between coaches and fans. Sometimes the spirit of an important message gets lost in translation, and fans are given a condensed and perhaps modified report through media services that skews a coaches or players’ true opinion. With Twitter and other social media and micro-blogging services, fans get a fresh take, allowing the two sides to see eye-to-eye on certain issues and, in Gottfried’s case, collaborate on special interests. It strikes at the nexus of the increasingly symbiotic fan-coach discourse cycle. Twitter enables a pithy but often influential digital back-and-forth, the sort of quick, pure dialogue that promotes a sense of mutual understanding. Whether smartphone-friendly communication reaches a broader segment of the collegiate coaching ranks remains to be seen. What’s clear is that the conversation between fans and coaches — particularly with hot-button issues like, say, ongoing eligibility investigations and newfound scheduling philosophies – is taking place with greater levels of clarity and simplicity. Hard to fuss over that.

Chris Johnson (290 Posts)

My name is Chris Johnson and I'm a national columnist here at RTC, the co-founder of Northwestern sports site Insidenu.com and a freelance contributor to SI.com.


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