A USC season already marked by several distracting controversies for coach Lane Kiffin and school administrators added more intrigue Thursday.
The Pacific-12 Conference announced that it fined the Trojans football program $25,000 because a student manager intentionally deflated footballs used by USC during its 62-51 loss to the Oregon Ducks on Saturday at the Coliseum. Deflated footballs presumably can be easier to throw and catch.
USC, in revealing the reprimand on its website Wednesday night, also announced that the unidentified student manager had been relieved of all duties.
Kiffin said that no coaches or players knew of the manager’s actions, nor were involved, until it was brought to USC’s attention Sunday.
The manager was seen deflating footballs on the Oregon sideline, near the Ducks’ bench, Kiffin said.
“For all the conspiracy (theorists) that will think we’re behind this, I don’t think 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 … deflated balls.”
Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden remains hospitalized in “stable, yet critical” condition after tearing the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart, in a collision with a teammate during practice.
A team physician said that type of injury is fatal “95 percent” of the time and usually linked to high-speed motor vehicle accidents.
Tennessee State defensive back William Wayne Jones, III collapsed during practice and was later declared dead at a hospital.
Jones, a walk-on freshman from Smyrna, Tenn., caught a ball and was throwing it to an assistant coach when he collapsed Wednesday afternoon. Trainers found the 19-year-old unconscious with no pulse. He was taken to Baptist Hospital, where he died.
No. 8 Florida State survived a scare to beat Virginia Tech, 28-22. The Seminoles (9-1, 6-1 ACC) won their fourth in a row and with a victory over Maryland on Nov. 17 will secure a spot in the ACC championship game Dec. 1. … Injured South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore won’t attend the 12th-ranked Gamecocks contest with Arkansas on Saturday. Coach Steve Spurrier had said earlier in the week that Lattimore would be on hand when the school unveiled signage honoring the junior for his school career-best 38 rushing touchdowns.