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UMBC's 'social media guy' wins Twitter as basketball team busts brackets

Zach Seidel, who directs digital media for UMBC Athletics, is getting a lot of attention for the department’s Twitter feed.
Zach Seidel, who directs digital media for UMBC Athletics, is getting a lot of attention for the department’s Twitter feed. (Dustin Roddy/UMBC)

Zach Seidel is feeling a little taken aback by all the attention he’s getting.

As the person behind the Twitter account of UMBC Athletics, Seidel’s quick-witted sass garnered scores of social-media admirers Friday night, when he shot back at those who doubted the school’s chances in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

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Since the team’s historic upset over No. 1 seed Virginia, Seidel been drawn into the spotlight along with the underdog Retrievers. The 27-year-old Pikesville resident has fielded interview requests from outlets including The New York Times, ESPN, USA Today, SB Nation and Yahoo.

“I’m just the social media guy,” Seidel said on Saturday. “It’s been a little bit weird.”

Seidel, who directs digital media for UMBC Athletics, said he didn’t have a social media strategy going into the game.

Tweeting courtside in Charlotte, N.C., “I just started letting my personality come out,” he said. “Twitter’s about interaction, and I just wanted to make sure we had some fun interaction.”

It worked.

Before the game, the @UMBCAthletics account had about 5,000 followers, Seidel said. By Saturday afternoon, that was up 72,000 followers.

Seidel said old friends were texting him saying they knew he was the one behind the tweets.

“They said it was my personality,” said Seidel, a former Baltimore Sun intern.

Seidel was named to his current position in 2014. But he first started working for the school’s athletics communications department as an intern more than a decade ago, when he was a senior at Pikesville High School.

After graduating from high school in 2008, he enrolled at UMBC, earning a bachelor’s degree in media and communication studies and, later, a master’s in human-centered computing.

Seidel comes from a UMBC family. His parents, Nadine and Jeff, are alumni. And his younger sister, Kara, is now a senior there.

Seidel, whose father is a freelance sports writer for The Sun, said he hopes the win serves as an opportunity for the world to learn more about UMBC.

“I think if people actually look at what the school is, they would realize how great of an institution we are,” he said.

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