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#WeAreUK: University of Kentucky Athletics a fixture in the Twitterverse

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twitter_logo.jpg A little over two years ago, Twitter was an unknown to most of the Bluegrass. Things changed when John Calipari became head men's basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.

Calipari took to Twitter and Wildcat fans did what they do better than any other fan base in the country: mobilize. It didn't take long for his follower count to climb into the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and eventually seven figures.

The micro-blogging platform gave Calipari a means to communicate directly with fans without a filter and its power was abundantly clear. It wouldn't be long before nearly the entire athletic department had a Twitter account (or three), from coaches to players to even Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart.

It seemed to me that no university and its fan base had so embraced Twitter, thereby demonstrating the fervor of the Big Blue Nation. What I sought out to do was to quantify that claim by seeing how some of UK's top tweeters stack up with their counterparts at other schools throughout the SEC and nation.

@UKCoachCalipari leads the way (1,140,010 followers)

Comparing Calipari's number of followers to his peers is a nearly pointless endeavor because he blows them all out of the water. He is the only head coach at the professional or collegiate level with more than a million followers.

WeFollow.com compiles lists of the most followed users on Twitter and Calipari is the only college basketball coach to rank in the top 250 sports users. In fact, Calipari ranks 12th among all athletes, coaches, teams and journalists, sandwiched between @espn and @orlando_magic.

Going beyond the world of sports, Calipari ranks 377th in followers among all Twitter users on the face of the earth according to Twitaholic. I recognize that not all of Calipari's followers live in Kentucky, but his 1.1 million followers are equal to over one-quarter of the entire state's population.

@UKAthleticsNews climbs the ranks (24,257 followers)


Almost 25,000 followers might not seem like a lot compared with Coach Cal, but the official Twitter account of UK Athletics is just one of five athletic department Twitter accounts to have more than 20,000 followers. Here is how UK stacks up:

1) Florida Gators - 28,871
2) Alabama Crimson Tide - 25,263
3) @UKAthleticsNews - 24,257
4) Oklahoma Sooners - 24,064
5) Nebraska Cornhuskers - 20,649

Further evidencing the power of Wildcat fans, @UKAthleticsNews sat in fourth place a few hundred followers behind Oklahoma when Calipari asked his followers to help UK "climb this Twitter ladder." A few hours and a bunch of retweets later, UK had moved up to third place.

Second place is well within reach and first isn't far off either. Let's see what Cats fans can do.

@jokerphillips (25,983 followers) among SEC's top tweeters

The football field isn't the only place where the "RISE" theme applies. Among all head football coaches in the SEC with official Twitter accounts, Phillips has the second most followers. Phillips joined Twitter just over a year ago and Les Miles is the only SEC coach with more followers.

1) Les Miles (LSU) - 36,310 followers (national leader)
2) @jokerphillips - 25,983 followers
3) Mark Richt (Georgia) - 23,379 followers
4) Derek Dooley (Tennessee) - 21,273 followers
5) Will Muschamp (Florida) - 19,202 followers
6) Houston Nutt (Ole Miss) - 9,749 followers
7) Gene Chizik (Auburn) - 7,784 followers
8) James Franklin (Vanderbilt) - 3,383 followers

@UKMitchBarnhart (8,652 followers) joins the party

Twitter is only beginning to enter the world of athletic directors, but UK's Mitch Barnhart has already jumped on board. One of just four SEC athletic directors with Twitter accounts, Barnhart is closing in on 10,000 followers and only Mississippi State's Scott Stricklin (former associate AD at UK) has more. Nationally, Michigan AD Dave Brandon leads with over 14,000 followers according to my research.

National leader: Dave Brandon (Michigan) - 14,229 followers
1) Scott Stricklin (Mississippi State) - 10,545 followers
2) @UKMitchBarnhart - 8,652 followers
3) Jeff Long (Arkansas) - 6,165 followers
4) Pete Boone (Ole Miss) - 3,264 followers

@UKCoachMitchell and @UKHoopCats among nation's most followed

With back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the 2010 Elite Eight, Matthew Mitchell and UK Hoops have emerged on the national level. The emergence on the floor has been accompanied by one in the world of social media. Mitchell is second in both the SEC and nation in followers, trailing only Pat Summitt of Tennessee among women's college basketball coaches with Twitter accounts (again, according to my research).

1) Pat Summitt (Tennessee) - 17,701 followers (national leader)
2) @UKCoachMitchell - 8,155 followers
3) Dawn Staley (South Carolina) - 4,601 followers
4) Nikki Caldwell (LSU) - 4,464 followers
5) Amanda Butler (Florida) - 2,573 followers
6) Renee Ladner (Ole Miss) - 591 followers
7) Andy Landers (Georgia) - 418 followers
8) Sharon Fanning (Mississippi State) - 375 followers
9) Tom Collen (Arkansas) - 247 followers

The official Twitter account of UK Hoops is first in the SEC in followers, ahead of perennial power Tennessee. UConn's official women's basketball account leads the nation with over 8,000 followers.

National leader: UConn - 8,164 followers
1) @UKHoopCats - 3,385 followers
2) Tennessee - 2,566 followers
3) Vanderbilt - 656 followers
4) LSU - 643 followers
5) Auburn - 462 followers
6) South Carolina - 450 followers
7) Florida - 448 followers
8) Alabama - 402 followers
9) Mississippi State - 275 followers
10) Ole Miss - 224 followers

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