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The air of their ways: Kiffin downplays $25K incident

LOS ANGELES — A disappointing season reached a weird low late Wednesday when No. 21 USC announced that a student manager was dismissed for underinflating several game balls used by the Trojans in a loss to Oregon last weekend, an act that earned the school a $25,000 fine and a reprimand from the Pac-12.

Deflated balls are thought to be easier to throw and catch.

Coach Lane Kiffin spent Thursday explaining why it was an isolated misdeed.

"I was just disappointed," he said. "It was a distraction that nobody knew about here, that had no effect on the game. If anything, it had a negative effect to be throwing two different types of balls for a quarterback."

Kiffin said his staff and quarterback Matt Barkley knew nothing about the actions of the manager, who was not identified. Officials apparently discovered three underinflated balls before the game and two at halftime. Kiffin had no thoughts about the motivation of the manager.

"I can assure you this will not happen again," USC athletic director Pat Haden said.

The Trojans have been criticized for other seemingly unethical things, including having a player change his number.

FAMU COACH LEAVING NOW: Florida A&M coach Joe Taylor announced he's stepping down immediately, with two games left in his fifth season. Defensive coordinator Earl Holmes, 39, a Tallahassee native and former NFL linebacker, will be acting coach for Saturday's game against North Carolina Central and the season finale Nov. 17 in Orlando against Bethune-Cookman. He will be considered for the full-time job. Taylor, 62, had said he would retire after the season but now wants to eliminate distractions.

No. 1 recruit up for grabs: The oral commitment to Clemson from the nation's top recruit as ranked by Rivals and ESPN appears to be loosening. Grayson (Ga.) defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche denied reports he had decommitted but acknowledged being undecided. Grayson coach Mickey Conn told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Nkemdiche has decommitted. Ole Miss, where his brother plays, and Florida reportedly are among schools under consideration.

Player dies: Tennessee State freshman defensive back William Wayne Jones III collapsed during practice and was declared dead at a hospital. The walk-on from Smyrna, Tenn., had just caught a ball and was throwing it to an assistant when he collapsed Wednesday.

Houston: Cornerback D.J. Hayden remained in "stable yet critical" condition after tearing the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart, the inferior vena cava, in a collision with a teammate during practice.

ark. state 45, la.-monroe 23: Ryan Aplin threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Stockemer to break a tie early in the third quarter, David Oku ran for 131 yards and three scores, and the host Red Wolves (7-3, 5-1) held off the Warhawks (6-4, 4-2) to take the Sun Belt lead.

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The air of their ways: Kiffin downplays $25K incident 11/08/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 9, 2012 12:08am]
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