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When Will The First Spy/Bounty/Cheat-Gate Occur In College Sports?

Admit it.

It’s only a matter of time.

When NFL squads (the New England Patriots) and Major League Baseball teams (the Philadelphia Phillies) have been caught stealing signs — either with cameras or with spies in the outfield — over the last few years, I’ve waited and wondered when a college program would finally get busted for the same type of gamesmanship.

Now the New Orleans Saints are dealing with a bounty scandal.  On top of that there are accusations from a single unnamed source that their general manager once had the means to listen in on opposing coaches’ field-to-box communications during games.  For years there were rumors that legendary Raiders owner Al Davis had bugged his opponents’ locker room out in Oakland… allowing him to listen in on everything from pre-game plans to halftime adjustments.  (That would be a lot more valuable than what Saints GM Mickey Loomis is accused of having done, by the way.)

There have also been numerous issues with road teams’ headsets mysteriously going out during key segments of NFL games.  I don’t think there’s a fan out there who hasn’t had that happen to his favorite NFL team at some point.

All this stuff has gone of for decades, of course.  Remember, the Patriots and Saints were spanked not just for breaking rules with regards to spying and bounties, but for ignoring league-issued letters instructing all teams to knock it off.  In other words, this stuff was happening in a lot of places.  The Pats and Saints were just too reckless or too arrogant to stop when told to stop.

You can file all this under: If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.  And no league has lived by that mantra over the past few decades like the one this site covers — the SEC.

So here’s the question: How long before Yahoo! Sports starts snooping around to see if Bill Belichick-disciple Nick Saban has ever swiped opponents’ signals?  How long before ESPN starts hearing rumors that Stadium X in the SEC is famous for communication problems between road coaches on the field and their fellow coaches in the pressbox?  What school will be the first to be accused of bugging an opponents’ locker room or coach’s office?

We ask because it’s only a matter of time before someone tosses out an accusation — possibly like the one being flung at the Saints’ Loomis right now — that’s nothing more than a rumor.  But it’ll only take one “enterprising” journalist to run with said story and cause major headaches for a major college program.  One day, fairly or unfairly, some school will face the same kind of scrutiny that professional teams have faced all because someone will leak an accusation to a reporter.

It’s coming.  And knowing the SEC’s history and the fact that Mike Slive’s league is the most highly-visible in America, here’s betting an SEC program will be the first in the media’s crosshairs.

Here’s hoping we’re wrong about that, but the SEC is considered to be a mini-NFL by most observers already.  To mix metaphors for you NASCAR fans, isn’t it likely then that somebody from Columbia (MO) to Columbia (SC) has already found a way to add a little something-something to their fuel mix?

Oh, and if you think the passionate reaction in NFL circles has been something to see, wait until the first time a college program — much less an SEC school — is a targeted in a rule-bending probe.  Lord have mercy the screams will be deafening.  The Cecil-Cam Newton Affair will have been a blip on the radar in comparison.

So batten down the hatches, SEC fans.  Sooner or later a college program or coach will be accused of in-game shenanigans.  And the odds of that coach coming from the highest-profile conference in America — your favorite conference — are good.



There has already been one...ISU versus Mizzou



Before the 1959 match-up between the two schools, which took place in Ames, Iowa, field testing showed that the telephones the two schools used to communicate with their coaches in the coaches box were wired so that either school could hear what was going on on the other sideline. The problem was fixed before the game,[1] but neither of the two coaches knew that.

Northwestern Bell Telephone Company of Ames then decided to have a trophy made to commemorate the incident, and thus the Telephone Trophy was born.[3][4]

An odd sidelight to the whole affair was that the same thing happened to Missouri the following year in a game played in Columbia, Missouri. The 1960 season game, which took place at Memorial Stadium, had similar problems. "

Eric B
Eric B

I thought that bounties were part of what "The U" is in trouble for.


I find "cheating" in sports fascinating. By this I mean what qualifies. In NASCAR for instance, it used to be encouraged to add the little something-something... as long as you didn't get caught. Or magnets in the car, etc. In baseball, trick plays and stealing signs from second are acceptable, but not stealing signs from the outfield. In football, it doesn't seem that way.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

Eric B...


Bounties involve payment of cash to players so that's a larger NCAA issue.  I'm talking more about gamesmanship which is why I focused more on spying, bugging, and sign-stealing in the piece above.  That stuff goes on all the time and sooner or later some school will be dragged through the mud for it.


As for Miami, if there were bounties paid to players -- and Luther Campbell used to hand athletes cash for big plays -- it was coming from boosters, not coaches.  But I don't claim to be an expert on Miami's case.


Thanks for reading the site,



Just to clarify, I am not vouching for any bounty system.


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