LOS ANGELES – If three losses and a two-game losing skid wasn’t enough bad news for the USC program, late Wednesday night the school announced they were being fined by the Pac-12 Conference for deflating balls in last Saturday’s loss to Oregon.
A student manager was seen deflating balls on the Oregon sideline. That manager has since been fired by the program. USC head coach Lane Kiffin has not spoken with the now former manager and says the managers are hired through the equipment department.
Kiffin and quarterback Matt Barkley were both questioned by the school’s Compliance Department and Kiffin says both denied any knowledge of the situation.
According to Kiffin, the officials checked the balls before the game and inflated those that were deflated. After halftime, all the balls were said to be the same.
The incident was reported by members of the Oregon staff. Kiffin was informed about the situation on Sunday night.
“As the head coach everything falls on you,” said Kiffin. “I don’t know why it was done.”
The deflation of the game balls is yet another off the field saga sparked by the Trojans during a game week. Kiffin abruptly walked out of a presser less than 30 seconds into it days before the game at Stanford.
Kiffin and others were bombarded with questions in the week leading up to the game at Arizona for the jersey number swap involving third-string quarterback Cody Kessler.
Both times, the results were losses in games the Trojans were favored in.
USC is once again favored this week against Arizona State. However as they prepare for their meeting with the Sun Devils, more controversy surrounds them in what was supposed to be a banner year as a preseason No. 1.
“For all the conspiracy theories that’ll think we were behind this,” Kiffin said, “I don’t think that if we were trying to deflate balls we’d be directing a student manager on the Oregon sideline, right in front of them, to be deflating balls and playing with some deflated and non-deflated balls.”
Deflated balls could provide an advantage for the quarterback as well as the wide receivers. It allows the quarterback to have a better grip. A ball inflated to the max and thrown with a lot of velocity is more prone to bounce off a wide receiver’s hands than one that is a little less inflated.
Barkley, who was not available for comment, works closely with the student managers. He once did an interview with them on “picking peaches.” It told the story on how he works with the managers to select the balls that will be used on gameday. The “peaches” are the balls. However, Kiffin contends his senior quarterback is free of any wrong doing.
“I don’t think our quarterback would want that,” Kiffin said. “When asking him he didn’t know anything about it.
“I believe this is a very isolated incident that had nothing to do with coaches or the players on this team.”