Friday, April 05, 2002

Quite an interception: National champs' playbook on Internet

Police investigate theft; Coker downplays effect

The Associated Press

        CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The Miami Hurricanes carry the little green binders from meeting room to meeting room, keeping tight control on the team's formations, plays and terminology.

        They take the 150-page playbooks home and to school, too, always guarding them as if they were the football equivalent of atomic secrets.

        Well, they're secrets no more.

        The national champions' two playbooks, one offensive and one defensive, were stolen last month, and parts of them were posted on the Internet. Coral Gables police said someone took the playbooks and returned them March 28 in manila envelopes.

        Team officials learned of the theft only when they got the playbooks back. Police and FBI officials are involved in the case but have no suspects, Sgt. Ed Hudak said Thursday.

        “The focus of our investigation is twofold,” Hudak said. “How it got stolen and how it got disseminated through the Internet.”

        Coach Larry Coker said Thursday he wasn't too concerned about the theft.

        “The ones we hand out, they pretty much don't have a lot of meat and potatoes,” he said. “They do have some basic things in them that are important, but nothing they can't get off of video.”

        According to a police report, two manila envelopes arrived by mail at the university's Hecht Athletic Center on March 28. Each envelope was postmarked Tampa, Fla., on March 22 and had no return address.

        One was addressed to “Ken Dorsey c/o LB Coach” and “Ken Dorsey c/o QB Coach.” Dorsey is the Hurricanes quarterback and a Heisman Trophy finalist last season. The playbooks were taken from the office of linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves, and the playbook pages were removed from the binders, but the binders were left in the office, the report said.

        “I don't know what they got, but it doesn't matter,” Hargreaves said. “If nobody knows what we're doing by now, it's not going to matter.”

        Team officials said they checked the Internet and found playbook pages scanned on the Web site “Sandman's 4-3 Defense On-Line.” The site is named after a popular defense in which four linemen are backed by three linebackers.

        The Web site, which was not accessible Thursday morning, asked for submissions of playbooks that detail the 4-3 defense and requests that people e-mail the site to exchange addresses.

        Team officials told police they didn't know how the playbooks were removed. Jeff Merk, Miami's director of football operations, told police that “occasionally unauthorized person(s) find their way into the area of the coaches' offices and occasionally doors are left unlocked.”

        Changes in security already have been discussed, athletic director Paul Dee said.

        “Whenever you lose something you can't always close the barn door,” Dee said, “but you can sure take a look around the barn and make sure that anything you can do to prevent any kind of losses that you do that in the future.”


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