Sign-stealing has been a major part of the national discourse around college football over the past several months. Most of this has been because the Michigan Wolverines have been involved in an egregious sign-stealing scandal that is still being investigated. However, South Carolina football fans may have noticed their top rival has been mentioned several times, as well.
Back in October when the Michigan story was breaking and reporters were digging into their sources for information, the Clemson Tigers came up multiple times as a team that was known in coaching circles to be stealing signs.
Further details were not really provided other than a nugget from former LSU coach Ed Orgeron. According to ESPN’s Alex Scarborough and Adam Rittenberg, a source close to Orgeron said that Coach O and the Tigers “knew” that Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables had LSU’s signs during the 2019 national championship game.
After punting in the game’s first three possessions, LSU changed signs at the end of the 1st quarter. The Bayou Bengals dominated the rest of the way, scoring 45 points in the game’s final 47 minutes.
Then, this week, Clemson got brought up again by another former SEC head coach.
Bobby Petrino, the “new” offensive coordinator at Arkansas, when asked about the Michigan situation, mentioned in his re-introductory press conference that “I do know that when you went and played Clemson, they were going to have your signals…[the] guy’s standing there on the sideline with a sheet of paper with your signals on it.”
Petrino’s comments were brief, but there was a particular hurt behind his words that indicates the alleged cheating still bothers him. He then went on to advocate for the use of in-helmet communication in college football as a means of stopping Clemson and other programs from stealing signs by eliminating the need for most signs altogether.
Petrino’s allegations match up with the LSU story from Scarborough and Rittenberg, and his timeline playing Clemson (2014-2018 as the head coach at Louisville) overlaps with Brent Venables’ time with the Tigers, too.
To Clemson’s credit, if they were cheating, they seemingly never got caught, but multiple behind-the-scenes sources and a former ACC head coach all seem to believe that the Tigers are guilty.
South Carolina football fans, like every season, will play Clemson next season, but they will also face off with Venables again as he is now the head coach at Oklahoma.