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Thief steals playbook, posts it on Internet

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 only learned of the theft 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 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 linebacker coach Vernon Hargreaves, and the playbook pages were removed from the binders, but the binders were left in the office, according to the report.

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."

Playbooks have ended up in enemy hands before.

Indiana Pacers forward Malik Sealy left his playbook at Kennedy International Airport in 1993. The book was basically a scouting report on Indiana's playoff opponent, the New York Knicks, and detailed strengths and weaknesses of each player.

The contents were read on a national radio show just hours before the teams began a first-round playoff series, and Sealy was fined.

Former Florida coach Steve Spurrier closed practice in 1996 to the media after some of his "ball plays" ended up on a Web site.

And last fall, three central Texas coaches agreed to pay $3,000 each to former Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese, former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan and his two of his sons to settle a lawsuit.

Zampese, Ryan and his sons sued the coaches after learning their NFL playbooks had been posted for sale on the Internet.

In the NFL, playbooks are treated like trade secrets. Players can be fined thousands of dollars for losing or misplacing them. And any player who is cut has to turn it in before he leaves camp.

The Hurricanes take similar precautions.

"There's a big policing of our playbooks," center Brett Romberg said. "If you don't have it, you're running."

Added defensive tackle Matt Walters: "Since I've been here, no one's ever lost a playbook."

Still, the Hurricanes didn't seem too concerned about their X's and O's making their way into cyberspace.

"Some guy must have lost his welfare check and he's just looking for another source of income," Romberg said. "But if he wants to do that, then he can go to bed every night thinking about selling us out. It really doesn't matter.

"Every team pretty much does the same thing; it's a matter of who executes the best."

Team officials 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 and implemented, athletics 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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