Stealing signals, spying are part of college football lore

Updated: August 9, 2007, 12:34 PM ET
ESPN.com

Darrell Royal and Frank Broyles admitted they stole each other's game signals during their epic rivalry. Royal accused former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer of sending a spy to Texas' practices in the 1970s. From cheap shots in pileups to cleats that were too long, here are some college football cheating anecdotes.

The Spy Game

1976 -- Oklahoma vs. Texas:
Former Texas coach Darrell Royal accused then-Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer and his staff of sending a spy to closed practices at Memorial Stadium.

Barry Switzer, Darrell Royal and Gerald Ford
UT AthleticsBarry Switzer and Darrell Royal escorted President Ford to midfield for the coin flip of the 1976 Spy Game.

According to reports, Oklahoma assistant Larry Lacewell urged a Sooners booster, Lonnie Williams, to pose as a painter at practice. Switzer acknowledged in his book "Bootlegger's Boy" that Oklahoma did send spies to Austin.

In the autobiography, Switzer wrote, "It did happen. As it turned out, although I didn't know it at first, Darrell was right to accuse us of that. It was my fault because I was the head coach, it happened."

But on the 25th anniversary of the 1976 game, Switzer changed his tune about when the spying actually occurred. "Hell, Darrell was right. We were spying, but it happened several years earlier when I was an assistant coach," he told The Dallas Morning News in 2001. "But that was so damn long ago, I can't remember the details."

The game ended in a 6-6 tie.

Mixed Signals

Spring 1977:
Frank Broyles says he still talks with Darrell Royal every two weeks; they have been friends for 53 years.

At one point, they regularly vacationed together -- but they never talked about the specifics of their epic series against each other as the coaches at Arkansas and Texas, respectively.

Share Your Views

The epidemic of cheating in sports isn't so much about the athletes, coaches, commissioners or even sportswriters who let it happen. It's about the fans.

How much more can you take? You've read the stories and answered the polls, and now it's time to let your voice be heard.

Join the ESPN Conversation and tell us what you think about the past, present and future of cheating in sports. Maybe you think we're overreacting. Maybe you think Barry Bonds should go to jail. Maybe you think professional sports needs to adopt a zero tolerance policy.

We want to hear your thoughts, ideas and emotions. Selected comments will be included in a Friday story that will conclude Cheat Wave '07.

Except once. While traveling to Michigan to visit Bo Schembechler, Royal asked Broyles, "Were you stealing our defensive signals in '71?"

Broyles said, "Well, I won't respond until you tell me whether you were stealing our offensive signals in '62." "He said yes, I said yes, and that's the only time we talked about our game."

For the record, Texas beat Arkansas 7-3 in 1962, in a game about which Broyles said, "We should have scored 30."

In 1971, Arkansas beat Texas 31-7.

"We knew when to throw and when not to," Broyles said.

Psychology 101

September 1990 -- Rutgers:
A former defensive lineman, who played at Rutgers in the early 1990s, told ESPN.com it was not uncommon for athletes to play head games to gain an edge over their opponents.

"A former teammate, a defensive tackle/nose guard, spit on the football, pre-snap, while it was in the hands of the center," the lineman said. "While it didn't cause any issues -- somehow the center snapped the ball successfully -- it freaked him out for the rest of the game, and the nose tackle definitely got into his head.

"The whole spitting thing is now actually a penalty since Bill Romanowski spit in a player's face on 'Monday Night Football.' Football players will do anything for an advantage."

Cast Call

October 1992 -- Rutgers:
"I played with a player in college who played with a broken hand and wore a cast," the Rutgers lineman said of another former teammate. "It eventually healed, but he would wear the cast on his hand on game days to use it as a club.

"It's a flat-out example of cheating. And maybe it has become part of the game, but that's still cheating. Players won't say that they are cheating when they do certain things, and rarely will teammates call them out for it. Players will wear casts and hard objects and tape over them so no one sees it."

If The Cleat Fits …

Jan. 2, 1996 -- Tennessee vs. Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl:
Ohio State coach John Cooper accused Tennessee of using "illegal cleats'' in its 20-14 victory. NCAA rules limited the length of the cleats to a half inch, but Cooper told The Columbus Dispatch the Vols used three-quarter-inch cleats.

Cheap Shots

Oct. 11, 2003 -- Ohio State vs. Wisconsin:
Ohio State linebacker Robert Reynolds put a choke hold on Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi, knocking him from the game in the third quarter of Wisconsin's 17-10 victory.

Jim Sorgi
David Stluka Jim Sorgi was the victim of an Ohio State choke hold.

"Ohio State is a great program, and for them to come out and do that to our quarterback … that's one of the lowest things I've ever seen in a football game," Wisconsin WR Lee Evans said. Ohio State suspended Reynolds for the next game.

"That whole situation … it happens in college football," Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel said. "People around the country may deny it. Coaches and linebackers may deny it. I'm not saying it's right by any sense. I'm not condoning it. I'm not saying what Robert did was right. But at the same time, I've been at the bottom of piles and have been kicked and pounded … and grabbed in places where you don't want to get grabbed. I mean, you're defenseless down there, and it happens. It's part of the game. In that respect, it's something a lot of people around the country have to take a look at and realize it happens every game. It's just there's not a camera on it every time it happens."

Those sentiments were echoed by Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter. "That stuff happens all the time. If there weren't 30 TV cameras on it, he probably wouldn't have gotten caught," Carpenter said. "It's the kind of thing that happens at the bottom of the pile. It gets looked at more because it was the quarterback and he had to leave the game. But it's just the nature of the sport. It's a violent sport. When you step inside the lines, you have to be ready for anything at any time."

Reynolds wasn't flagged by the officials for his actions.
-- Gannett News Service

I Spy

April 2006:
A West Virginia student was caught spying at a Marshall practice. The student was confronted April 11 after he was spotted sitting in the bleachers at Edwards Stadium, taking detailed notes in a notebook.

According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he claimed he was from Alabama-Birmingham, a Conference USA foe of Marshall. He then changed his story and said he was a student reporter. Police searched him and found office and cell phone numbers for each Mountaineers football coach.

"First thing, they'd have to re-introduce themselves to the kid," Marshall athletic director Bob "Kayo" Marcum joked in the Post-Gazette. "They acted like they didn't know him."

"I've seen the notes myself. I don't think [Marshall] will design plays such as that," West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong told the Post-Gazette. "There wasn't much to them. I don't think he was very experienced at what he was doing."

ESPN.com's Pat Forde and Ivan Maisel contributed to this story.

ALSO SEE