How do you stop a team that has dominated the college football landscape over the past two seasons?
According to the defending national champions, you’re not going to do it by stealing their playbooks.
That move was attempted last month when two UM playbooks, full of alignments and formations used during the 2001 title run, were stolen from linebacker coach Vernon Hargreaves’ office and posted on the web site “Sandman’s 4-3 Defense Online.”
However, last Thursday, the team dismissed the importance of the matter, indicating that there were better ways of figuring out the Hurricanes’ schemes than studying playbooks.
“It does have some drawings in it, but it’s all fluff,” UM coach Larry Coker said. “I’d give them all playbooks if they wouldn’t watch the game films. The video is more helpful than the playbook would be.”
“They can watch film and know what plays we’re running, but the way we disguise them, that’s not in the playbook. We change that from week to week so it’s doesn’t really matter anyway,” said senior defensive tackle Matt Walters.
Although the issue is being downplayed, stolen property did appear on the Internet, causing the FBI to be involved.
Potential charges could include burglary, theft, possession of stolen property and possibly federal crimes.
According to a police report filed with the Coral Gables Police Department, UM realized the offensive and defensive playbooks were missing March 28 when two manila envelopes were delivered to the Hecht Athletic Center.
Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon opened the envelopes, postmarked in Tampa on March 22, and found the pages taken out of the playbooks.
Once the pages were received, Miami officials found their formations on the Web site, which is now inaccessible.
Coral Gables Police Sgt. Ed Hudak, in charge of team security, said the owners of the site have been identified and “subpoenas are being filed and sent out.”
“The focus of our investigation is twofold – how it got stolen and how it got disseminated through the Internet and if in fact there’s a federal crime of dispersing stolen information on the Internet,” Hudak said.
According to Hudak, there have been prior thefts from the football offices involving “footballs and autographed paraphernalia” but never playbooks. He said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that someone from inside the athletic department committed the crime.
UM Athletic Director Paul Dee said the theft was “disappointing” and that he’s planning to look into security measures around the Hecht Athletic Center.
“You don’t know exactly how that might have happened,” Dee said. “By and large, it’s infrequent. We try and watch out for those things, we protect the equipment, we try to take care of all of our equipment the same way and when we have a loss we have to look into why we lost it.”
Senior Center Brett Romberg said a playbook was stolen last year, except “it just never got out.” Coker, however, denied that that any playbook was stolen.
Either way, coaches and players agree that this minor distraction will not be an issue when they resume practice in the fall.
“It happened last year, it happened this year and it’ll probably happen again next year,” Romberg said. “We still won a national championship last year, so I’m not too worried about it at all.”