In football, sign stealing is the process of decoding the signals shown on the other team’s sidelines in order to know what kind of play it might run before it happens.
This is not a problem in the NFL, where plays are communicated to the offense via a communications unit inside of a player’s headset.
But in college football and lower levels, where plays are often communicated via complex signs and codes, sign stealing could potentially yield a huge advantage for opposing defenses.
Stealing signs? C’mon. It’s college football pic.twitter.com/PKhP85v3VU
— Donnie Azoff (@DonnieAzo) October 24, 2023
As is the case in many sports, the details matter when it comes to accusations of cheating. It’s not necessarily illegal to break your opponents codes and steal their signs, but it does matter how you steal their signs.
If Team A cracks a sign code on Team B during a game, or in the ordinary course of preparing to play, that’s fair play. This is the case for many teams. If anything, Team B should be hiding its play calls better or utilizing a more complex sign code.
However, sign stealing is in the news because of the Michigan sign-stealing scandal. Michigan’s alleged sign stealing could interfere with the Wolverines’ team aspirations, including a return to the CFP or Michigan 2023 Heisman odds.
If you want to read more about the specific details of that story, you can head over to my other article, linked above.
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