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University of Michigan hires woman to dupe football players online

Coach Brady Hoke taught his players a lesson about social media the hard way. 


Kevin Collier

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 1, 2013   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 2:11 am CDT

It might not be “catfishing” in the strictest sense, but the University of Michigan apparently taught its football players the dangers of social networking the hard way.

Michigan reportedly hired Florida-based 180 Communications Inc., which offers public relations and media training and often has athletes for clients. As part of the arrangement, a female employee of 180 Communications friended players on Facebook and followed them on Twitter. She then compiled a report of what they said, assistant athletic director David Ablauf told Crain’s Detroit Business. quoted coach Brady Hoke saying 180 Communications got his players good in late 2012:

“”He had his assistant — she tried to talk to our guys. ‘Hey, what are ya doin’?’ Whatever it might be.

“Well, two months later we’re in a team meeting and we’re on the topic of what you put out there in the cyber universe … you should have seen 115 guys when that young lady — she was hot, now; a very, very nice looking young lady — when she walked into that meeting room, and the guys looking at each other.

“Because some of them didn’t use their heads when communicating back and forth with that young lady.”

Ablauf, however, said that the the woman had limited contact with the players.

“She would go through their accounts and find stuff that was either in inappropriate for the public or could be misconstrued,” but did not ‘catfish,’” Ablauf insisted.

The subtext to this, of course, is that Manti Te’o, former star linebacker for Michigan rival Notre Dame, said in January that he was the victim of a massive “catfishing” scam after Deadspin reported his deceased “girlfriend” never existed. 180 Communications’s blog post about Te’o is titled “Surviving a PR Nightmare.”

Kyle Rowland, an Ohio State University blogger who attended a speech by Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon, said Brandon’s description of the events was “most certainly” catfishing—but that that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

“There was no public shaming,” he tweeted. “I see many OSU fans bashing Michigan and Brandon, but I think it’s smart to educate players.”

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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*First Published: Feb 1, 2013, 8:33 pm CST