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Human Race | Super Bowl champion coach comes under scrutiny for videotaping opposing coaches

Issue: "He's in," Sept. 22, 2007

Is Bill Belichick a genius or a cheater? The taciturn head coach of the NFL's New England Patriots has built an impressive coaching career, winning three Super Bowls since 2001. But a cloud formed over those accomplishments last week after the Patriots were caught allegedly videotaping coaches for the New York Jets sending in defensive signals during a Sept. 9 game.

Mastering an opposing team's defensive signals gives an offense a decided advantage, and videotaping signals is against league rules. While the NFL looked into the matter, opposing players and coaches raised questions about the Patriots and Belichick. "It just makes you wonder how long they've been doing this and has it really helped them win some games," New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan told reporters. "That's no different from the cheating ref in basketball."

Belichick issued an apology of sorts prior to what would normally be a routine mid-week press conference on Sept. 12. "I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players," a statement from Belichick said, but it wasn't clear whether the apology was an admission of guilt. A reportedly standing-room-only group of reporters got nothing more out of the coach: He walked out of the press conference after being questioned repeatedly about the incident.

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Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee, said the league would take swift action if it finds the Patriots guilty of videotaping signals, suggesting that looking the other way would embolden those who would cheat. "The competition committee's responsibility is to protect the integrity of the game," Fisher told the Associated Press. "With technology the way it is right now, things could get out of hand in a matter of weeks if we don't protect the integrity of the game."

Close-ups

Protests: A group of protesters at the University of California, Berkeley, won a court battle over whether they could continue to take up residence in trees that the university wants to cut down to make way for a sports training center. The university said the protest was creating a health hazard, with propane tanks in the makeshift tree houses creating a danger of fire, and with spills of human waste from buckets creating a danger for those below. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller said the half dozen protesters could remain in the grove until a full hearing on Oct. 1.

Hollywood: Jane Wyman, Oscar-winning movie actress, first wife of Ronald Reagan, and star of the 1980s TV show Falcon Crest, died Sept. 10 at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The 90-year-old Wyman had been married to Reagan from 1941 to 1949 and had two children with him, daughter Maureen and adopted son Michael. She won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of a deaf rape victim in the 1948 drama Johnny Belinda.

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