When Clemson’s senior football players voted to turn off social media prior to the start of the 2011 football season, they did it for the betterment of the team, and their teammates understood.
The Tigers had something to prove. At the time, Clemson had not won an ACC Championship in 20 years. They had not been a consistent player on the national stage since the early 1990s and the program was coming off a losing season in 2010 that forced Dabo Swinney to change some of his offensive coaches.
It was time for the program to be serious about winning. The players saw how serious Swinney was about turning the program around and they needed to get serious too.
“We just felt like, at the time, and there were some things, mishaps there, I tweeted out something, a couple of guys tweeted out something … We had guys that were worried, more or less, about taking pictures for Instagram or Twitter, at the time, more than they were worried about the game itself,” said Tajh Boyd, who was a redshirt sophomore in 2011. “So, we just felt like it was an unneeded distraction.”
And they were right.
With no social media, Clemson won its first eight games to open the 2011 campaign and rose to No. 5 in the BCS standings and No. 6 in the AP and Coaches Polls. The Tigers went on to win the program its first ACC Championship since 1991, won 10 games in a season for the first time since 1990 and earned an Orange Bowl bid for the first time since 1981.
From 2011-’19, Clemson’s seniors have voted each year to continue the ban. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Tigers are 111-16 (.874), second only to Alabama in terms of wins and win percentage in the country.
Clemson has won two national championships (2016 and 2018) and played for it two more times, while also winning five more ACC Championships, playing in two more Orange Bowls and five College Football Playoff.
The Tigers’ success is why Boyd, the ACC’s all-time leader in touchdown passes and total touchdowns, is a little weary of the 2020 seniors’ decision to keep their social media accounts active this coming season.
“If those guys feel like they can handle it, they can handle it,” the former All-American said. “The problem is it only takes one. And so that is why I was a little weary of it, but again, this is a new group. This is a unique time, especially when you talk about everything that has been happening. Whether it is with COVID and social injustices.
“So, the avenues and the opportunities they have to speak on these topics, and people listen, it is really important and really special because you have to make sure it is clean across the board.”
With the players potentially finding financial gains from their Name, Image and Likeness, as soon as next year, Boyd gets why the players would want to keep their accounts active during the season for free expression.
“College Football, the NCAA in and of itself, is changing right before our eyes. I don’t necessarily know where it is headed, but I know it will not be the same,” the former Clemson quarterback said. “I am interested and excited to see what happens going forward because, again, when you look at what has happened, with the petitions, some conferences playing and some not, we are already starting to see the floor fall beneath us a little bit within the NCAA. Then you start adding in a few other things and at that point it could be the autobahn out here.”
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