Wireless Experiment In SEC Faces Problem

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Southeastern Conference will be allowed to utilize wireless communication on an experimental basis from a coach in the dugout to the catcher only during league games in 2018.

Approved by the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee and adopted by the NCAA Rules Oversight Committee, this experimental rule will allow a catcher to wear an ear piece which will link up with a wireless device that the pitching coach can speak into. The coach will tell the catcher what pitch to throw and what location.

Herb Vincent, associate commissioner and baseball administrator with the SEC, said the system they are putting into place only allows one way communication.

“While the coach can talk to the catcher, the catcher can’t talk to the coach over this wireless communication system,” said Vincent.

“The company we are working with has a device that will fit in the ear of the catcher independent of the catcher’s face mask. Another device will be strapped behind the catcher’s back.

“The coach giving the pitch calls will be utilizing a wireless device.”

Vincent said that the SEC has been assured by the company which manufacturers these devices that opponents will not be able to listen in on the wireless communications by a coach to his catcher.

However, there are several companies on the internet which offer services to do precisely this.

In many states, illegally intercepting a wireless call without the consent of that party is a civil and possibly criminal activity.

Whether any school would ever prosecute a person illegally intercepting calls is yet to be determined. The SEC has teams in 11 different states, and every state’s law is different in regard to illegally listening to wireless calls.

Collegiate Baseball contacted the University of Florida Law School to find out what Florida law would be in play if a coach intercepts such wireless calls and if he would be prosecuted.

“It is against the law to intercept communications,” said Bob Dekle, a legal skills professor who is Director of the Criminal Prosecution Clinic at the University of Florida.

“Under the circumstances you described, the judge would most likely rule it as a misdemeanor in the state of Florida. I can’t imagine any prosecutor falling all over himself to go after someone like this in a baseball game.”

Dekle said that different situations involved in illegally intercepting communications warrant quicker responses such as potential terrorists or people trying to cause harm to others. Baseball doesn’t fall into that category.

“With this being said, I would think that a communication system like this would be encrypted which wouldn’t allow any outsiders to listen in.”

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