Southern Cal football coach Lane Kiffin disputed reports of a locker room brawl among Trojans players following the team's 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
"Contrary to media reports, there was not a brawl or altercation in our locker room after the Sun Bowl," Kiffin said in a statement. "There was a noisy verbal exchange among a couple players who were frustrated with the outcome of the game.
"It lasted less than a minute and was nothing physical. It happens sometimes in football locker rooms after a disappointing loss."
The Los Angeles Daily News reported that a young player precipitated the incident involving 10-15 players when he questioned the team's senior leadership and also quarterback Matt Barkley for sitting out the Dec. 31 game because of a shoulder injury.
"I would say tempers flared, yeah, but that's football," Barkley said ESPN's Colin Cowherd on Wednesday. "It's an emotional game and when you end your season on a negative note like that, emotions are going to be high. Guys were expressing their opinions, for better or worse, but we had it under control. It was nothing to be alarmed about."
One USC player told the Daily News that the scene was "chaotic." Barkley disputed that.
"Obviously, in the locker room after that game, which was a loss, there's gonna be words exchanged," Barkley said. "People weren't in the best mood, but that wasn't to say we were fighting each other or there was an altercation."
Accounts of the incident differ. Some said only heated words were exchanged. Others said punches were thrown.
An unidentified player said, "It was one of the worst things I've seen in a locker room."
Freshman offensive tackle Zach Banner essentially blamed the seniors on the team.
"It's going to be a whole new family atmosphere next season and you can quote me on that," Banner told the Daily News. "For the seniors, it's terrible."
The bowl loss ended a disastrous season for a team ranked No. 1 in the preseason and with a Heisman Trophy front-runner in Barkley. The Trojans finished with a 7-6 record.