This season, the business of signal stealing could become more challenging. In May, the NCAA passed a rule limiting the number of people who can use headsets during a game to 20, including the 15 coaches (head coach, 10 assistants and four graduate assistants). The other five headsets will go to four players and one other staffer who is in a non-coaching role. “What a drastic change that may be for some schools,” said one Power 5 coordinator who suspects some programs used those additional headsets as part of their signal-stealing operation.
Coaches say they noticed a dramatic difference in staffs piled into the press boxes from around 2005, when there would usually be five total coaches upstairs, to around 2012, when some schools had 14 or 15 staffers in there. If you’re an off-the-field assistant trying to steal signals, “Now you’re gonna have to stand right beside the (defensive coordinator),” says a veteran signal stealer who has worked in multiple Power 5 conferences. “And you won’t get information clearly, fast enough, with confidence in front of 80,000 people to make a difference.”