ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday that while sign-stealing during games is nothing new, he had never heard about what Michigan is accused of doing: advanced scouting of future opponents to deduce their signals.
“I had never heard of anybody going to the games to watch and film and do all that stuff that that’s going on that people are talking about,” Smart said. “I don’t know anybody that’s ever done it. Or I’ve never been asked to do that as a young coach or known anybody to do that. I’ve never even heard of that.”
Here’s what you need to know:
- The Big Ten and NCAA are investigating whether Michigan has filmed future opponents in person, which is prohibited by NCAA rules. Staffer Connor Stalions has been suspended by the Wolverines pending the investigation.
- School sources told The Athletic on Monday that Stalions purchased tickets to watch five Big Ten teams during the past three years.
- Smart said he was unaware of anything unusual around the Orange Bowl two years ago when Georgia beat Michigan in the semifinal of the College Football Playoff.
Smart on allegations
There have been no reports or evidence about Michigan doing any advanced filming of Georgia’s signals before the Orange Bowl, and if it happened, it didn’t work: Georgia won the game easily (34-11) to begin its current 24-game winning streak, which includes two national championships.
“No I didn’t notice anything or know anything; nobody we talked to warned us or anything like that,” Smart said. “I think everybody we play they say, ‘They steal your signals.’ We play somebody, and they say, ‘They’re great at stealing your signals.’ But what they’re referencing (at Michigan) is different than stealing them. They’re talking about people to come and film on us. But we’ve tried to hide the signals, hold the calls, put signs up, do all that. But there’s nothing I remember about the Michigan game that makes me think that.”
What about during games?
Georgia puts a white sheet up on its sideline during games, behind where coaches are signaling in plays, to prevent opposing coaches in the press box behind them from seeing their signs. So they know it happens, and Smart has heard from other teams after the fact that they decoded some of Georgia’s signals, which is legal.
“You talk to the team that you played last, and sometimes if you’re not going to play them again, they share what they might’ve had on you, things like that. So I’ve heard of it in-game,” Smart said. “But a lot of times you can know the signals and still not do it right. It’s kind of the joke we have that you know the play that’s coming and you mess it up. I’ve laughed with coaches about that before.”
How much does Georgia do it? Not much, to hear Smart and one of his players tell it. Smart didn’t deny that it happens but indicated it wasn’t helpful, especially when he was trying to call a defense.
“As a signal-caller, when I had to call defenses, it confused me if I had to sit there and wait on somebody to tell me what they thought they got,” Smart said. “I’m trying to think about what the best call for the situation is, and you’re relying on misinformation or something that’s not very reliable.”
Georgia linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson was asked how much it would matter to know the offense’s signs.
“It would be huge. But I don’t think we sign steal over here,” Dumas-Johnson said. “Our preparation, our coaches doing their job, I think that’s why we’re very successful defensively the last few years. I think that goes to our preparation, the coaches doing their job. I don’t know about any sign stealing.”
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