SEC’s Greg Sankey Says Michigan Sign Stealing Saga Speeding Up Push To Electronic Communication

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TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said his league and NCAA officials had already been looking at NFL-type electronic signals to replace hand signals before the Michigan sign stealing controversy hit last month.

“We have been looking at that. Obviously, it’s accelerated now,” Sankey said in the press box at halftime of the LSU-Alabama game at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night. “The rules committee has got to adapt to allow more use of technology,”

Sankey then smiled and said, “I feel quite certain the recent in-depth reporting of some of the activities of certain programs (Michigan) will encourage the rules committee.”

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey says a move had already been underway to replace hand signals on college football sidelines with electronic signals. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

Sankey met with the 14 SEC athletic directors through a conference call on Wednesday with an overview.

“We provided an overview,” he said. “It’s not as easy as flipping a switch. Managing this (electronic signaling). You’ve got to have a consistent management.”

Hand signals is getting out of date and fosters advanced cheating.

“There’s a difference in sign stealing (in games) and what’s been reported,” Sankey said. “Sign stealing is a time honored tradition in baseball, but it’s not advanced scouting. It’s not video. It’s not technology. Well before this, we had talked about technology. We’ve talked about options for technology.”

Michigan allegedly, and the Houston Astros before that, took sign stealing in games and made it an art form with video recording and signals study.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said last week signals through a quarterback’s helmet could be the answer, as in the NFL.

Nick Saban Said College Football Should Mimic NFL

“I do think the helmet communication is probably a real positive,” he said. “You can’t steal signs and do any of this stuff if you have a helmet communicator. It has worked out well in the NFL.”

Sankey said he felt for what Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti is going through in trying to decide what to do with Michigan.

“I would read my bylaws. Make sure my presidents are with me,” Sankey said. “It’s a tough deal. I don’t wish that on anybody.”

Sankey has delved into how he might deal with such an issue as Michigan and the allegations against it.

“We’ve had a small group go through hypotheticals,” he said. “You don’t want to overreact. You never want anybody in those situations.”

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