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Column: Stealing signs a dangerous game for ASU to play

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Is ASU going too far in their effort to decipher opponent's signals? Our columnist thinks so.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In sports, gamesmanship is synonymous with the game. The whole cheaters never win mantra that we tell our kids when they try to sell us short a few Monopoly bucks is simply that, a mantra. Integrity is great and when you're sitting around a table and trying to sink your friend's battleship, it's probably best that you play fair and square.

But when winning is your job, you'll do everything you absolutely can to accomplish that goal. Hence we have pine tar, spitballs, stickum, steroids and the collection of other immoral means of gaining an advantage that have become notable for the controversy they've brought to their respective sports.

Is having a redshirt or walk on player peek over at the opposing team's sideline between plays and seeing what they can decipher cheating? No, visual signs and signals are public domain and as long as you don't video tape them, decipher all you want.

But should a top-flight program sink to that level? Nope, and for Todd Graham to admit that his team steals signals is like admitting to not being fully prepared headed into a game.

See, when you put concerted effort towards gaining a strategic advantage by throwing guys in the press box with binoculars and turning bench players or assistant coaches into spies, you open yourself up for the backlash that comes with it when you're sitting at 4-4 with more conference losses than wins.

Todd Graham looks like a extreme competitor who hasn't experienced extreme success. In the national light, Graham's success at Arizona State is still often preceded by his exits from Rice and Pittsburgh, and for good reason. If your head coach left after one year on the job (Graham did it twice), that would start to define his character to you.

Now he's getting called out by fellow coaches for being overly persistent in stealing their signs? That's not a good look, CTG.

If a team watches film the week prior to playing an opponent and then notices similarities in the signals and subsequent formations when they take the field, that's fine.

That's expected.

But when Oregon brought out those white shields, it sent a message that the Sun Devils and Graham have taken things too far.

It's one thing to study tendencies and make adjustments off of that, but to send people up for the sole purpose of getting eyes on another team's sideline isn't gamesmanship, it's just slimy.