When You Call Your Boss A “Putz” On An Anonymous Message Board, Make Sure You’re Actually Anonymous
Maybe you’ve heard so many warnings to be careful about what you post online that such warnings go in one ear and out the other…but you’ve been warned for a reason. Just ask Jeff Toole, the chief financial officer for Texas A&M’s athletic department (for now). Toole posts regularly under a pseudonym on the message boards at A&M fansite TexAgs.com, like many, many other university employees around the country undoubtedly do on their school’s boards. Unlike most others, though, Toole went a little overboard…after forgetting he’d provided an easy way to figure out his identity.
Back last year, Toole, in a post under the same pseudonym he uses now (UtayAg), mentioned he was Texas A&M’s CFO for athletics, making his real-life identity pretty obvious. Then, he forgot he’d ever done that. So earlier this year, this happened:
On June 28, UtayAg engaged in a spirited discussion with several posters about the merits of [Texas A&M president R. Bowen] Loftin, who became A&M’s president in January 2010 and was instrumental this past summer in A&M’s exit from the Big 12 and impending entrance into the Southeastern Conference. At one point, a poster demanded UtayAg “back off Loftin.”
“Absolutely not,” UtayAg responded. “Guy is a putz … ”
Additionally, Toole referred to Loftin as a “hopelessly underqualified puppet.” And as college sports fans can be very intense people, someone else on the TexAgs board did a search and figured out Toole’s identity. From there, there wasn’t a whole lot more he could do except admit that yes, he works for Texas A&M, and yes, a few statements he fired off on his keyboard might well cost him his $200,000/year job:
I was posting what I thought was an anonymous opinion…[t]his puts my job in jeopardy, and I’ve made a mistake.”
If he doesn’t lose his job, then the Texas A&M higher-ups are some awfully forgiving people. Athletic director Bill Byrne said he’s “taken disciplinary action” against Toole, but didn’t elaborate further, saying that “the matter will be handled internally.” Jason Cook, a spokesman for Loftin, echoed Byrne’s comments, adding that Loftin is aware of what Toole said. Just another lesson that even if the internet isn’t exactly always real life, it can sure have an impact on what happens in it. And as ridiculous as they can be, never underestimate the power of fan message boards.