A student manager for USC was relieved of his duties for deflating team footballs in an attempt to make them easier for the quarterback to grip. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

A student manager for USC was relieved of his duties for deflating team footballs in an attempt to make them easier for the quarterback to grip. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Players get kicked off college football teams for getting arrested—sometimes—and more often when they are convicted.

And sometimes a student-athlete doesn’t turn out to be a student after all, despite the best efforts of tutors employed by the Athletic Department and professors sympathetic to the fellow’s aspiration to that two-fold designation. Separation from the institution—not to be confused with separation from the defensive secondary—sometimes results.

But how does the student manager of a college football team get himself canned?

One of the fellows serving in that capacity for the USC team found a way last weekend. Figuring—allegedly all by himself—that footballs slightly less firm than regulations require would be easier for his team’s quarterback to grip and throw, the manager deflated said footballs.

Officials discovered the problem and had the balls re-inflated before a major scandal could erupt, and the student-manager, who was not named, was fired. According to USC, the miscreant maintained that he had performed the deflations “without the knowledge of, or instruction from, any USC student-athlete, coach, staff member, or administrator.” Among the people exonerated by this statement that sounds suspiciously as if it was composed by an attorney is USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin. This must be a great relief to Coach Kiffin, whose peripatetic career has been previously besmirched by skirmishes great and small with the NCAA, felonious players, and various opposing coaches. The last thing Coach Kiffin needed was linkage to a charge of malicious deflating.

I like this story because although nobody directly involved with it has acknowledged that it is silly, it is. College sports in general and college football and basketball in particular are often taken too seriously…more seriously, I suppose, than stories set in any other major industry where the profits depend on management’s failure to pay labor anything at all.

Wait, you say there have been no other industries openly operating along those lines since 1863?

Anyway, on a college football landscape characterized by hypocrisy, corruption, and alumni who threaten to stop contributing to dear ol’ Whatever U unless the coach is canned, a story about a student manager who deflated some balls is downright refreshing. And anyone who elects to believe that he worked his mischief—that deflate gate transpired—”without the knowledge of, or instruction from, any USC student-athlete, coach, staff member or administrator” is certainly free to do so.