It might be the weirdest story of the college football season: USC fired a student manager and was fined by the Pac-12 after it turned out said manager was deflating footballs during the Trojans’ 62-51 loss to Oregon last weekend. “Oh, that Lane Kiffin’s up to no good again,” you might think, except Kiffin denied any knowledge of the deflation operation. (Not that that’ll stop speculation.) “Well, sneaky move to pull regardless,” you then say… except the manager was doing it right on Oregon’s sideline. This plan – especially if it’s true that Oregon was anticipating it – was doomed from the start.
So why might a team want to deflate footballs? Well, USA Today’s Paul Myerberg offers a few reasons:
Quite simply, and as you might think, a slightly deflated football is easier to grip. As a result, a football that’s easier to grip is easier to throw, catch and hold. A football that’s easier to throw, catch and hold is often a football that ends up getting spiked in the end zone.
Another thing to consider is the fact that college teams use their own football, meaning that in Saturday night’s game, Oregon had its own set of footballs on offense and USC its own set. So, theoretically, a team could deflate its own footballs very slightly and not worry about the opposing offense catching on when it had possession.
Not that it made much difference anyway: both teams scored at will all game long, and USC scored 27 in the second half, for which all balls were properly inflated. So the attempted cheating was done in a conspicuous spot, USC lost anyway, and they clearly didn’t need to do it to move the ball. This was a failure on every level, and it makes us think of a few other strategies USC student managers might be better served trying next time:
1. Replace Oregon’s footballs with football-shaped balloons.
Very realistic. They’ll never know. (Photo via)
2. Replace all game footballs with giant novelty-size inflatable footballs.
Tout them as a way to have “a real fun-sized game for the whole family.” If Oregon objects, accuse them of hating fun. (Photo via)
3. Replace own footballs with Nerf Vortex foam balls.
If they’re good enough for John Elway, damn it, they should be good enough for the Pac-12. There’ll be no questions about Matt Barkley’s arm strength if he’s slinging these babies around.
Matt Barkley photo via Getty