Loose lips sink ships — or college football programs, if coaches are to be believed.
In an ESPN report on paranoia among FBS coaches, former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt admitted to going through trash cans on Oklahoma’s campus looking for game plans while on staff at Oklahoma State in 1982. Nutt was a graduate assistant under coach Jimmy Johnson with the Pokes from 1981-82.
Back then, that kind of tactic was “normal,” according to the report. He was looking for discarded depth chart, play sheet or coaches notes — anything he could get his hands on. (For what it’s worth, Oklahoma State never defeated Oklahoma in the 1980s.)
Two decades later, Texas coach Mack Brown ended players’ ability to access practice footage online, sensing a “potential for abuse,” he told ESPN. Later in his career, a trick play the Longhorns planned to use to open a game against Iowa State was leaked on the internet the night before. Brown didn’t specify which year, but Texas used a trick play from the Wishbone on its first offensive play against the Cyclones in 2012 following Darrell K. Royal’s death.
Brown’s successor, new Texas coach Tom Herman, told families of football players to not speak to the media shortly after he was hired — a story which, ironically, was reported by the Austin American-Statesman’s Brian Davis.
On Monday, Tom Herman told Texas parents to be positive about the team on social media and not to speak with reporters, a parent said.
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) January 17, 2017
Another anonymous Big 12 coach admitted to ESPN stealing signals is a widespread practice in college football and has been for a long time. Texas Tech defensive coordinator Mike Smith accused his predecessor of giving the team’s signals to opponents in 2014.
The same year, TCU coach Gary Patterson and QB Trevone Boykin accused Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield of stealing the Frogs’ signals from the opposing sideline because Mayfield had played under co-OC Sonny Cumbie at Texas Tech.
Schools have gone as far as to send coaches to opposing practices with fake IDs, posing as high school coaches, Brown told ESPN.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that some coaches have sent people in to watch,” Brown said. “It’s still happening.”