Game balls are often a sign of respect, usually given from a coach to a star player.
They don’t start brawls.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case Wednesday when Auburn beat Memphis, 31-10, in the Birmingham Bowl. After the game, Memphis safety Reggis Ball appeared to lay out an Auburn ball boy, snatch a pigskin and run off.
Reporters noticed that Ball—the younger brother of former Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball—was also flipping the bird:
Alec Lewis @alec_lewis
Memphis football player just walked over to Auburn's sideline and stole their footballs and was tackled by a manager. Can't make this up.12/30/2015, 8:10:31 PM
The University of Memphis athletic department later released a statement declaring that Ball had been dismissed from the team for his actions:
Dana Sulonen @DanaSulonen
Memphis player runs past me carrying what I'm guessing was a game ball. Auburn tried to get back. player runs away while giving the finger.12/30/2015, 8:09:39 PM
Ball had two picks in the contest, one of which he returned for his team’s only touchdown. As Kevin Trahan of SB Nation noted, Ball trotted back to the sideline with the intercepted touchdown ball after referees tried to get it from him.
According to Michael Niziolek of the Ledger-Enquirer, this isn’t uncommon:
Members of Auburn’s equipment staff were alerted Ball tries to steal a football from opposing teams after the game every time he gets an interception.
Ball had two interceptions in the 31-10 loss and returned his second pick for a touchdown in the second quarter, but he didn’t get away with one of Auburn’s eight game balls.
[Twitter, Facebook, h/t SB Nation]