MSU's Hollis 'applauds' UM for rallying around punter

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis applauded his counterpart at Michigan and the Ann Arbor community for rallying around punter Blake O'Neill following last week's game.

Speaking Friday at the Spartan Sports Journalism Classic — where MSU journalism alums came back to campus to meet with current students — Hollis said Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett's public statement following the abuse O'Neill took on Twitter was a positive move.

"I applaud that," Hollis said. "If you see something wrong, you have a tool to say that's wrong.

"I think the Ann Arbor community kind of came together."

Hollis, along with former MSU basketball star Steve Smith and Tigers play-by-play man Mario Impemba, headlined a panel discussion on social media's affect on the sports world.

Hollis has had his challenges with it — and has one coach in particular, Tom Izzo, who despises Twitter.

Situations like the barbs O'Neill took after the botched punt, which led to MSU's stunning 27-23 victory, are a perfect example why Izzo hates Twitter.

"That's where the destructive side of this comes in," Hollis said. "It's something when it gets to that level. It's so, so wrong, especially when you're talking about college students and kids who 17 to 21 years old.

"That's where Tom Izzo has a problem with this level of communication that becomes global in a matter of seconds."

Hollis has had a love-hate relationship with Twitter, himself.

He used tweet a lot, but has cut way back since taking some heat over a couple tweets — one aimed at MSU students for leaving a football game early last season, and another aimed at ex-Michigan basketball star Trey Burke.

But Hollis still monitors Twitter on a daily basis — to see what fans are saying and, of course, to keep tabs of his student-athletes and coaches. MSU gives athletes and coaches free will to enjoy Twitter, after some training.

They best keep it relatively positive, though.

"Once a week, I'll call a student athlete into my office. It's kind of like going to the principal's office," said Hollis, noting sometimes it was over a bad tweet, and sometimes he wanted to get to know an athlete more after seeing an interesting tweet, like some Draymond Green used to post.

"(Former punter Mike) Sadler got called into the office more than anyone. He's probably one of the most brilliant and creative social-media guys out there. I've seen things on there that I thought required correction action."

Hollis said there's some good that comes from Twitter — it helps with the MSU brand, and it gives coaches another tool to evaluate recruits.

Asked whether social media helps recruiting, Hollis quipped, "It helps if you get the kid, and it hurts if you don't."

Izzo, of course, isn't the one monitoring Twitter when it comes to recruits.

He has staff members to do that. And that's not going to change anytime soon, just like you're never see a @RealTomIzzo account pop up on Twitter.

And Hollis understands.

"It's not gonna happen. He really and genuinely cares, and sees the destructive side of it, and that's where his whole focus is," Hollis said. "There's nothing that we are ever going to do in his lifetime that is ever going to convince Tom Izzo that Twitter is a good thing, and that's OK."