Michigan’s Signals Stolen In ‘97 NCAA Title Run?

In the dying wake of SpyGate, another football team has been outed as sign stealers: the 1997 Northwestern Wildcats, specifically in their game against Michigan that season.

Bill Belichick

(Bill Belichick not the only huge, fake boob stealing signals, wives?)

Stealing signs with the naked eye is legal in college football, and if it wasn’t for a couple of Michigan ball boys, it could have cost the Wolverines a shot at their national title.

THE WIZARD OF ODDS points out a piece from Mark Snyder in the DETROIT FREE PRESS about Jonathan Datz and Mike Youtan, a couple of underclassmen who worked as ball boys on the opponents’ sidelines during Michigan home games, including the Northwestern game. From the FREE PRESS:

Michigan was struggling to move the ball, holding only a 13-3 lead at halftime.Northwestern had upset Michigan the previous two seasons. Now Datz and Youtan had an idea why.

“There was a guy on their sideline that day, and he had our signals down pat,” Datz said. “Every time, he would scream into the defense what we’re going to do — pass or run — and he was almost always right. …

“They were blowing up draws, calling our counters and destroying our screen passes — all a big part of our plays that year. I was just screaming mad. Youtan and I are thinking to ourselves, ‘This guy has us.’ “

So Youtan ran around the field during the third quarter to tell Eddie Mangus, who held the cords for the headset of head coach Lloyd Carr. Mangus relayed the information to his boss.

“I absolutely remember that,” Carr said recently. “The reason I do remember it is I don’t ever remember anybody else offering advice or information during a game.

“Those are all bright guys that get into those positions. But that’s the only time I remember one telling me something.”

The play that finally sold the U-M coaches on the need to adjust came on a third-and-25 with less than three minutes left in the third quarter. That’s when U-M tailback Clarence Williams ran a sweep — an odd call for that down and distance — and two Wildcats grabbed him behind the line of scrimmage.

After that, Michigan set up a signal decoy, and scored on their next drive. At that point, Northwestern graduate assisant coach David Hansberg knew they were onto him.

“In the third quarter, (the Wolverines) scouted it out with their coaches watching; I had them dead to rights. But late in the third and early in the fourth, I remember thinking the ball boys are on to me. …

“Finally, they moved to multiple signal callers. They figured it out and adjusted. I keep trying, but I’m dead.”

The ball boys had saved the day.