USC coach Lane Kiffin may have tried to willfully deceive Colorado during the Trojans' 50-6 win. That's what the L.A. Times was wondering when the paper asked Kiffin about backup quarterback Cody Kessler changing jerseys while playing on special teams in the first half.
Kessler usually wears No. 6, but he switched to No. 35 during special teams plays, which included a run for a two-point conversion. Punter Kyle Negrete is No. 35.
Kiffin tried to play off the jersey switching by claiming his team did nothing wrong.
"We change jerseys all the time with our guys," Kiffin said Tuesday. "We'll change some more this week. Everything's within college rules."
Well, yes and no.
Players are allowed to wear the same number as another player as long as they're not on the field together, but NCAA rules specifically prohibit the changing of jerseys if it's meant to deceive another team.
In "The Football Code" of the NCAA rule book, under a list of "unethical practices," the first item is "Changing numbers during the game to deceive the opponent."
According to the Times, special teams coach John Baxter told Kessler to change jerseys in the first half.
"Coach Baxter told me to put it on, so I was like, 'All right. Yes sir,'" Kessler said. "[Tailback] D.J. Morgan came up to me and said, 'Yeah, you look like a running back.'"
Kessler also noted that he was trying to look "big" like Negrete, who outweighs the quarterback by about 10 pounds. The two players are both 6-foot-1.
No matter how you spin this, there was some sort of deception involved. No reason to change Kessler's jersey if there wasn't. Why you would need to fool a Colorado team that had no business being on the same field as USC is beyond me, but doing so appears to be a violation of ethics and should have been assessed a 15-yard penalty.
While USC might not have been caught this time around, there's no doubt other teams and officials will be watching for it in the future.
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