Alabama, Michigan both restrict game film viewing on tablets due to fears of hacking, sign-stealing

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Alabama wide receiver Isaiah Bond speaks to reporters during a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, in Los Angeles. Alabama is scheduled to play against Michigan on New Year's Day in the Rose Bowl, a semifinal in the College Football Playoff. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

LOS ANGELES – The Alabama Crimson Tide caused a stir at the Rose Bowl when they revealed they've restricted their players' game film viewing on iPads heading into the College Football Playoff semifinal against Michigan because of concerns about hacking.

As it turns out, Michigan is also taking precautions.

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The Wolverines also have stopped watching game film on iPads, players and coaches said Friday. Both teams are watching film only in groups or on protected devices as they prepare for their high-stakes meeting in Pasadena.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh first addressed the issue with players last month. He then “turned them off for everyone” on Thursday, receiver Roman Wilson said.

“It’s just a precaution thing,” Wilson added. “It’s just a feeling. Coach is trying to protect our players. When you first see it, you kind of laugh. It’s kind of outrageous that things like that are going on, but you can’t really blame them with the things going on in college football these days.”

Quarterback JJ McCarthy said certain restrictions have been in place for weeks, and Michigan offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore confirmed it.

The Wolverines "just caught wind of things that could be going on,” Moore said. “Just told our kids, I think it was early November, ‘Hey, we’re not watching stuff on the iPads anymore. Watch it in-house and handle it that way.’ It’s something we decided from our own perspective, that people heard some things, and we wanted to make sure that we were safe on our end.”

The Tide are also being cautious with their equipment and films in the wake of the Wolverines' sign-stealing allegations from earlier this season.

Wide receiver Isaiah Bond and running back Jase McClellan said Thursday that watching film has been restricted to only as a group and with coaches at team facilities.

McLellan also said that players are not receiving practice film directly on their iPads, and that only coaches are receiving it.

Harbaugh was suspended for the final three regular-season games by the Big Ten Conference due to a sign-stealing scheme, although he denied any role or knowledge in the scheme. Connor Stallions, a former Michigan staff member, was considered one of the leaders of the operation and resigned.

The NCAA does not prohibit sign stealing. However, it does not allow in-person scouting or the use of electronic equipment to steal signs.

“The app where we record film off of practice and stuff like that, and they were I guess like looking at other people’s play calls, their hand signals the first eight games or something like that,” Bond said.

Quarterback Jalen Milroe said he was still watching film on his iPad despite the warnings.

“I watch tape all over the building. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m going to be prepared for the game,” he said.

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees didn't want to discuss Michigan's controversies and noted the focus was more on the Crimson Tide's preparations and less on the Wolverines.

“I don’t think we’ve put any harm to what our preparation can look like with any of the things we’ve done. Again, we’re focused on us. Less about that stuff and more on what we can do to play well," Rees said.

Alabama and Michigan use the same company software for their film viewing and data analysis.

Bond added that the Crimson Tide change signals almost every game, and that any concerns about sign stealing might be a little overblown.

“It’s us going out there. They’ll have to play us on the field," he said. "We’ll see what happens when you’re on the field.”


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