LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Three losses through the first week of November should be bad enough, but as the 2012 USC season continues to prove, it just isn’t.
It’s been one disappointment and one distraction after another that have spilled outside the walls of Troy all year.
If it wasn’t switching jersey numbers, it was banning a local reporter. Before that, it was Coach Lane Kiffin misrepresenting how he voted in the Coaches Poll.
Now add the firing of a student manager for deflating USC’s game balls prior to and during the Trojans’ game against Oregon.
From USC’s website, “A USC football student manager has been relieved of all duties with the Trojans football team,” read the message on Wednesday night, “for intentionally deflating, below NCAA-regulated levels, some game footballs used by USC’s team during the first half in last Saturday’s game against Oregon.”
USC received a reprimand and imposed fine from the Pac-12.
Kiffin said after practice Thursday he was unaware of the situation until Sunday, when the conference notified him. “Obviously as a head coach everything falls on you,” he said.
The USC compliance department, tasked with investigating the situation, found that the student-manager acted alone as he deflated balls in plain sight on the Oregon sideline.
It is believed deflated footballs are easier to throw and catch.
“For all the conspiracy theories that'll think that we were behind this,” Kiffin said, “I don't think if we were trying to deflate balls we would direct a student manager on the Oregon sideline, right in front of them, to be deflating balls and be playing with some deflated balls and some non-deflated balls.”
Kiffin says he even understands why skeptics emerged Thursday wondering how a college student could even fathom scheming alone like this to help his team. “I can totally see that,” Kiffin said. “That’s exactly what I said to our compliance department, too. That’s why it was just very frustrating for a distraction like this with none of the players or coaches being involved in it.”
As far as quarterback Matt Barkley who would seemingly benefit from the deflated balls, “(He) was questioned in this as well, obviously,” Kiffin said. “He had no knowledge of this at all.”
Regardless if anyone in the football program, with exception of the student-manager, had knowledge of the situation, it is now another shadow on a season that was supposed to be highlighted by Heisman campaigns and ultimately celebrated by a national championship.
“I believe this was a very isolated incident,” Kiffin said, “that had nothing to do with the coaches or the players on this team.”