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Elite College Football Coaches Share Solution to Sign Stealing Concerns

In the aftermath of Michigan’s sign-stealing investigation, several high-profile college football coaches have made public their belief that helmet radios and electronic communication could resolve the issue.

The NCAA launched an investigation into the Wolverines’ program last Thursday, claiming that Michigan was involved in a sign-stealing scheme that was allegedly orchestrated by analyst Connor Stalions. Although Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh denied “any knowledge” about his program or a staff member participating in an “off-campus scouting” activity, the program suspended Stalions without pay pending the results of the investigation.

On Monday, ESPN reported that Stalions paid for more than 30 tickets for 11 different venues in the Big Ten within the last three years. While sign stealing is allowed by the NCAA, the use of video recording equipment to steal signs is prohibited, and teams are not permitted to send scouts to opposing games in advance to record signals. However, the NCAA claims that Stalions engaged in this behavior.

To prevent sign stealing moving forward, Alabama football coach Nick Saban thinks that helmet communication would be a “real powerful thing” for college football.

“Everybody should—you can’t steal signs or do any of this stuff if you have a helmet communicator and I think it’s... a good thing,” Saban said in the SEC coaches teleconference on Wednesday. “It’s worked out well in the NFL and I also think it’s good to have one guy on defense that you could tell that guy what the call is without having to go through all this signaling process.”

Johnson: Michigan’s Connor Stalions Texted That He ‘Stole Opponent Signals’ From TV—and Had a Vision for the Wolverines

Meanwhile, LSU coach Brian Kelly said the NCAA’s decision of not using helmet radios or electronic wristbands to this point was “absolutely silly” and needs to be changed.

“… I don’t know why we’ve been slow getting to it,” Kelly said on the SEC call. “I’ve been a proponent of it in our SEC meetings. Seems to have not gotten the traction, for some reason. I don’t know why, to be honest with you.”

In addition to Saban and Kelly, Auburn coach Hugh Freeze said he was fully on board for the use of helmet communication.

“I’d be totally for that,” Freeze said on the call. “I still think the question that you’d have to answer first (is about) no-huddle teams. You're still going to have to get the play to the receivers, which would still take some signaling. But (it) would be much easier to manage than what we're currently doing with everybody trying to figure out, ‘Alright, I’ve got their signal for run or pass.’”

Despite Michigan’s latest controversy, the program is currently a favorite to compete for a College Football Playoff national championship this season.