When I first heard the news about the USC Trojans deflating their footballs during the game with Oregon, my response was similar to Chip Kelly's: "It's got nothing to do with us." (via Adam Jude of The Oregonian)
After all, it wouldn't be the first time since Kelly's arrival that opposing teams have resorted to illegal tactics—I'm talking to you Tosh Lupoi—with all the same results: the Ducks won anyway.
But after sleeping on it, this incident is very troubling. Are you, like me, questioning whether Trojans QB Matt Barkley knew that the balls were deflated? Or, horrors, that he might have instructed the USC student manager who got fired to do it?
It's very easy to blame Lane Kiffin for this mess because he is such an unpleasant human being; also, not such a great coach. These shenanigans are the result of the culture he's created at USC.
But it feels like someone should be investigating Barkley's role in this fiasco.
Now, I have been a fan of Barkley's since he organized his teammates into a summer trip to Haiti to help with its rebuilding following the devastating earthquake. Some thought it was a PR stunt. Perhaps, but Barkley still made it happen and he didn't need to. He could have enjoyed his summer being the king of L.A. instead.
However, I have to wonder how Barkley could not have noticed the difference in the balls he was handling on each and every play. I'm not much of an athlete, but I do notice when I need new aerobic shoes, or when my golf balls are completely dead.
Shouldn't Barkley have noticed that the football was squishier? That it was easier than usual to get a good grip on it? Shouldn't he have said something to someone?
This incident is, of course, a blip on the radar screen compared to say, Jerry Sandusky, but it is concerning that coaches, and especially players, might resort to anything that they feel gives them a competitive advantage.
It may turn out to be what everyone involved says: One rogue student manager trying to help his team. I really hope that's true.
Otherwise, it's a dark day for Matt Barkley, USC and the entire Pac-12 Conference.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
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