It’s not clear to whom you were responding in this thread.
But while my own post didn’t refer to the sign-stealing allegations at all, I will say that it is important to remember that Michigan is not being accused of stealing signs, per se. They are being accused of traveling to other games in person to scout games (and of using electronic means to record those games). The article that Paul links to in the original post points out that the travel rule may very well be unlawful.
As for the sign-stealing aspect itself, anybody following the story has seen by now the counter-accusation that other Big Ten schools colluded to pass on their accumulated information about Michigan’s signs to the Purdue staff before last year’s championship game. Apparently, no rules were broken by doing that, but if we are going to work up a moral outrage over which was worse, was it:
- Traveling (apparently on your own dime) in person to scout an opponent, or
- Multiple institutions working together to give an unfair advantage to one team in your conference over another team in your conference before the most important game of the conference calendar?
If you are the new commissioner of the conference, it is awfully hard to turn your back on #2 while dropping the hammer on #1.
#2 is also interesting in the context of the film of Stalion on the Central Michigan sideline in their game against Michigan State while wearing CMU visitor bench credentials and CMU staff gear. One interpretation is that Stalion somehow tricked his way onto the sideline. Another is that the CMU staff were well aware of who Stalion was and was willing to accommodate him, even knowing it would be to the detriment of MSU. After all, he spent much of his time standing directly next to some of the CMU coaches on the sideline. Were they really unaware he was there?
If so, we’ve got Central Michigan colluding with Michigan against Michigan State and we’ve got Ohio State and Rutgers colluding with Purdue against Michigan. There are no saints or martyrs in this sordid affair. There is an awful lot of skullduggery going on, even if some of it is not against any rules.
Fortunately, I am confident that the problem will ultimately be resolved the same way that the MLB did it. Allowing electronic communications from the sideline to the huddle will eliminate most of this mess. Apparently, the momentum towards allowing this was blunted a half-dozen years ago by less wealthy schools who didn’t want the cost, which brings us back to the Yale article in the original post making the case that the travel rule about scouting was passed in 1994 only in order to cut costs. Nobody right now can legally use electronic means to communicate plays, apparently to avoid costs that some high schools are already paying now. Both of these rules are likely to be eliminated soon or be made irrelevant. Schools will be able to implement electronic means to communicate plays (with Trev Alberts’ enthusiastic endorsement), eliminating pretty much the only incentive to scout in person in an age where all games involve a full film exchange that can be handled much more efficiently by staffers sitting in the office annotating video than by sending someone on the road in the stands with his phone camera. And if they do want to do the latter, why even bother to stop them?
To be clear, I do not like Michigan and I am perfectly happy for them to get taken down a peg or two. I grew up with the image of Nebraska being a clean program that did not skirt the rules and I still want the school to hold up those ideals and scorn those schools that appear to encourage a culture of “it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught and besides everybody else is doing it!” (See the dead period contacts that Harbaugh self-suspended himself for and then lied about to the NCAA investigating committee.) For that matter, I scorn those schools going out of their way to put the thumb on the scale of games that don’t involve them, even though they are not breaking the rules by doing so. Perhaps we need to make more of an effort to quash that. But I am having a hard time working up much outrage over this particular Michigan scandal.
Now those Michigan fans who delude themselves that a team that was lucky to beat Appalachian State or Ryan Leaf and Washington State in the Rose Bowl was somehow more deserving of the national title than the team that crushed Payton Manning and Volunteers…