Revelations that a radio analyst with inside access associated with Wake Forest University provided confidential information to opposing football teams results in the ACC levying fines against the University of Louisville and Virginia Tech. A member of Louisville’s athletics department staff has been suspended for one game because of his involvement in the matter.
The contrast in responses from two schools that received confidential information on game plays from a mole within the Wake Forest University football program was striking.
Whit Babcock, athletics director at Virginia Tech, confirmed that a former assistant coach had received game plan information from Wake Forest University’s football program on Dec. 16, two days after Wake Forest University issued a report that Tommy Elrod, a radio analyst and former assistant coach, had been leaking confidential information since 2014.
Without naming the former assistant coach, Babcock took responsibility and apologized.
“We hold ourselves to a higher standard at Virginia Tech,” he said the statement. “We are disappointed and embarrassed that this type of information was distributed to, and apparently received by one of our former assistant coaches. The distribution of this type of information among peers or rivals is wrong and not in the vein of sportsmanship and integrity that we demand and expect, and for this, I personally apologize to the coaches, student-athletes, alumni, students and fans at Wake Forest University.”
Tom Jurich, the athletics director at the University of Louisville acknowledged that Lonnie Galloway, the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator, received a phone call from Elrod around the time of the Nov. 12 match with Wake, and discussed “a few plays.” Jurich said the plays were also “sent and then shared with our defensive staff,” while downplaying the significance of the breach. “None of the special plays were run during the course of the game,” he said. “Our defense regularly prepares for similar formations every week in their normal game plan. Any other information that may have been discussed was nothing that our staff had not already seen while studying Wake Forest in their preparations for the game.”
He ended by saying, “I’m disappointed that this issue has brought undue attention to our football staff as we prepare for our upcoming bowl game.”
Louisville has now suspended Galloway — the offensive coordinator who took Elrod’s call — for the upcoming Citrus Bowl, where Louisville meets LSU on New Year’s Eve. A more contrite statement from Jurich on Dec. 17 at least acknowledged the puzzling question of why the recipients of the leaked information didn’t immediately report it to Wake.
“It is clear to me that the information should not have been shared by anyone at Wake Forest, and it should not have been received by anyone at the University of Louisville,” Jurich said, according to the Courier-Journal. “Although no one from Louisville sought the information, once it was provided, we did not do what should have been done. The information should not have been accepted. It should have been rejected, and officials at Wake Forest should have been alerted to the inappropriate action taken by Mr. Elrod.
“This is an unusual situation,” Jurich added. “When someone receives information they should not be given, it is important that they do the right thing. Even in a competitive atmosphere, the right and ethical thing would have been for us to not accept the information. I regret very much that this took place.”
By the end of the week, the Greensboro-based Atlantic Coast Conference had announced that it was issuing fines of $25,000 each to Louisville and Virginia Tech, following its review of Wake Forest’s findings.
The conference said in a prepared statement on Dec. 17 that game plan information was provided to three institutions over the course of three seasons, including once to Virginia Tech in 2014, once to Louisville in 2016, and twice to Army in 2014 and 2016.
Army, which did not receive a fine, is the only one of the teams that is not a member of the conference.
“I am deeply disturbed something like this would occur and regardless of the degree of involvement, the protection of the competitive integrity of our games is fundamental to any athletic contest,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “Sportsmanship and ethical values are at the core of competitive integrity and in these instances, those were missing. The expectation, regardless of the sport, is that any athletics department staff members would immediately communicate with their supervisor if they are approached by someone from another institution with proprietary information.”
Amy Yakola, a spokesperson for the commission, declined to comment on if the body looked into whether money exchanged hands in return for the information, and said questions about Elrod’s motives were best left to Elrod himself.
Elrod could not be reached for comment for this story.
Suspicions about the leaks were initially raised when a member Wake Forest University’s “official travel party found a number of documents pertaining to our Louisville game plan” while the team was in Louisville for the Nov. 12 game, Athletics Director Ron Wellman said in a prepared statement.
Elrod is a former Wake football player and assistant coach. When the university hired Coach Dave Clawson in December 2014, Clawson chose not to retain Elrod. The former assistant coach was subsequently hired as a radio commentator by IMG, a Winston-Salem-based sports marketing company, and continued to receive inside access to the team. When the university released the findings of its investigation on Dec. 13, it announced that Elrod had been fired from his position at IMG and would no longer broadcast Wake football games. He has been banned from university athletics programs and facilities.
“I am extremely disappointed that our confidential and proprietary game preparations were compromised,” Coach Clawson said. “It’s incomprehensible that a former Wake Forest student-athlete, graduate-assistant, full-time football coach, and current radio analyst for the school, would betray his alma mater. We allowed him to have full access to our players, team functions, film room and practices. He violated our trust which negatively impacted our entire program.”