Washington State coach Mike Leach and Arizona State coach Todd Graham are involved in a classic he said, he said conflict revolving around Arizona State stealing signals from opposing teams.
Straight away, you need to understand that stealing signals isn’t against the rules so long as you’re only using your own five senses to do it (if you’ve got a sixth, you can use that too). No cameras or long-range microphones or spy gadgets of any kind. This is legal (because how could it not be?) but it is nonetheless considered unsportsmanlike by some coaches, including Leach.
The thing is, though? Leach says Arizona State is using recording devices to steal signals, and that the Sun Devils have a whole signal-stealing operation going.
From Leach’s weekly press conference:
I think they still steal signs. We’ll have to keep an eye on that. That’s certainly the reputation, and I think they have technology and expertise on the subject, which if they ever go to a different conference or something, I’d certainly like them to share it with us.
Yeah, you’ve got to keep an eye on them. They’ll steal signs, and they’re pretty clever about it.
It’s like breaking the Enigma Code with them. I think they ought to do a full-on investigation to see how they’re doing it and make sure it’s within the rules.
Graham says that, sure, Arizona State steals signals, but does so without breaking any (written) rules.
Washington State beat Arizona State 37-32 on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. During the postgame handshake Graham confronted Leach about his above comments, using language that may not be suitable for some viewers.
Leach hasn’t yet introduced any evidence for his assertion, so it’s hard to say from here whether it has any merit. It’s also hard to say whether signal stealing is even worth the effort. If signal stealing (a) is legal, and (b) creates an advantage, then you wonder why every coach doesn’t do it. We’re talking about a cohort that will work 15-hour days, that will rewind the film two dozen times to find a tell in a lineman’s blocking technique, that thinks it gains some sort of advantage by not telling people who the starting quarterback is going to be until the season starts. And we’re supposed to believe these guys wouldn’t want to know what the other team was running before they ran it? They don’t even bother trying because of some unwritten rule? That doesn’t sound like football coaches to me. Baseball, maybe. But not football.
Consider me a skeptic. If stealing signals was a worthwhile strategy, everyone would do it. Arizona State does it and, who knows, maybe Leach is right.
But Washington State won the game.