Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said Tuesday that officials and coaches counsel athletes on how they represent the university on popular online social networks such as Facebook and MySpace.
Barta responded to photos circulating on those sites and fans sites showing Iowa football players Dominique Douglas, Anthony Bowman and Arvell Nelson in images that include large amounts of cash and liquor bottles.
Wide receivers Douglas and Bowman were suspended by Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz after Sunday arrests on suspicion of unauthorized, felony use of credit cards.
Iowa associate athletic director Fred Mims confirmed the players in the photos are Hawkeyes while Barta acknowledged concern for the social phenomena that has driven people to networking Web sites.
The Star Tribune reported earlier this year that University of Minnesota-Duluth athletes are barred from having profiles on Facebook and MySpace in "a preemptive move to shield students and the school from bad press." The Orlando Sentinel quoted college sources in a story last month that estimated 75 percent or more of students have pages on at least one of the sites, with Facebook producing more than 23 million users and MySpace reaching 65 million unique visitors each month.
"For the last couple years, the phenomena of Internet social networks is something we address with all student-athletes," Barta said. "We shared with them that their responsibility is the same as it is when they're out in public.
"We expect them to act and represent the university in a first-class manner, and that's the same if they're at the mall, a bar or on one of the social networks."
Iowa, ISU online
Douglas and Bowman, both 19-year-old sophomores, were sidelined from the team indefinitely Monday after being charged with suspicion of purchasing $2,016.76 worth of merchandise with unauthorized credit cards.
Johnson County Sheriff's officials said Nelson, an 18-year-old backup quarterback, posted bond on an arrest warrant for failure to appear on an unrelated driving-related charge Tuesday afternoon.
Neither Douglas nor Bowman was able to be reached for comment by phone, e-mail or at their Iowa City residences.
Mims said the university is investigating the Internet photos. Hawkeye athletes are not prohibited, however, from posting images and biographical information online.
"But we have high expectations for our student-athletes," Barta said.
The Facebook Web site appears popular with Iowa and Iowa State football players, however, based on The Des Moines Register's search of the site.
More than half of the first and second-string players at Iowa who have Facebook accounts have privacy settings making it impossible to view their profile or photos.
At least five Hawkeye players listed as starters or second-stringers heading into the team's most recent scrimmage are identified in pictures on Facebook where both they and alcohol appeared.
Although many starters under age 21 were in pictures with alcohol, at least five appeared to be holding alcoholic beverages: offensive lineman Rafael Eubanks, defensive lineman Chad Geary, offensive lineman Dace Richardson, defensive back Lance Tillison, and kicker Ryan Donahue.
Iowa players were not able to be reached for comment.
On Iowa State's two-deep roster, 14 have Facebook accounts that were not accessible. Of those who had accessible profiles, two underage students identified as Cyclone football players were shown in photographs on their online profiles where both they and alcohol appeared.
Iowa State punter Michael Brandtner, 20, is pictured holding a beer can and a Budweiser box is visible on a nearby table in photo posted by another user.
Doug Dedrick, 20, an Iowa State offensive lineman, is pictured in a photo on his Facebook profile that shows him sitting in front of a table of beer bottles at a bar, along with special teams player Matt Purvis, 21.
The Register was only able to reach one Iowa State player, receiver Todd Blythe, while seeking comment.
Blythe said he has a cousin who thought she was communicating with him on a Web page, only to find out it was a false site.
"I myself don't have a MySpace page," Blythe said. "It took my cousin talking to me about it to get me looking around. I have four profiles on there that aren't me that say they're Todd Blythe, have my hometown information and all that stuff.
"This is just other people pretending to be me. I know Bret (Meyer) has the same kind of thing. And I've talked to guys like Albert Young, who have the same kind of thing going on. That kind of gets frustrating."
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard issued a statement after being contacted by the Register. "Iowa State has taken a proactive approach to educating its coaches and student-athletes about the potential negative consequences of posting personal information in this environment," Pollard said. "... The networks are popular on campuses today, and this isn't likely to change. That doesn't change that the school and the athletics department have similar behavior expectations for student-athletes on and off the field as it does in social network circles."
Social networking has become a big enough issue on campuses that the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics discussed it during its convention in June.
"We obviously have some First Amendment issues, and none of us want to say, 'Don't do this, because we're just not going to do that,' " Florida State associate athletic director Pam Overton told the Orlando Sentinel. "But we are going to say that we need to educate our student-athletes."
Former Iowa State basketball star Lyndsey Medders said she used Facebook while in college.
"For me, it was to stay in touch with people I wouldn't normally stay in touch with," she said. "... Other than that, I've found it to be pretty juvenile."
Reporters Andrew Logue, Mason Kerns and Danny Valentine contributed to this article
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