There's also an edge to be gained by deflating them during a game. USC was caught doing so.
The report from USCTrojans.com, USC's official site, says that one rogue student manager deflated some game balls below NCAA regulations during the first half of last Saturday's game against Oregon. Officials found three under-inflated balls before the game and two more at halftime. The balls were regulation in the second half. The manager was relieved of his duties.
Here's what USC's official site had to say about the incident:
The student manager confirmed that he had, without the knowledge of, or instruction from, any USC student-athlete, coach, staff member or administrator, deflated those game balls after they had been tested and approved by officials prior to the game.
The Pac-12 reprimanded and fined USC.
OK, let's get our "we have to look at both sides of the story" out of the way: Yes, it's possible that this really was a one-man job, done by a ball boy who understood the advantage deflating balls would give to USC, and that the Trojans couldn't understand why the balls felt different to them and that they were horrified to find out that a student manager would go around the rules like that.
It's pretty much preposterous to think this kid acted alone (though, credit to USC for having student managers who won't flip on them after they're caught). It's very tough to believe a student is going to take the initiative to deflate balls on the sideline "without the knowledge of, or instruction from, any USC student-athlete, coach, staff member or administrator, deflated those game balls after they had been tested and approved by officials prior to the game."
Was he really going to do this not knowing for sure if the players wanted it? That literally nobody in the entire program knew that a student manager was deflating footballs against NCAA rules? Just one kid in his dorm room concocting a scheme to give USC an edge, never bringing it up to coaches or players to see if they wanted this. Just put the balls in play in the biggest game of the season and hope it works out.
Call us skeptical. This is the same program that felt the need to have players change jerseys to run trick plays against a 45-point underdog. The Trojans aren't against finding any edge they can.
But right. Nobody saying nothin' at USC. Just one rogue student manager breaking the rules. Shock and dismay. Got it.
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