On Tuesday afternoon, the Pac-12 reprimanded USC junior quarterback Matt Barkley for calling Arizona State’s Vontaze Burfict a “dirty player” last week in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. Coaches are often reprimanded for complaining about officiating, but this is the first time in recent memory the league office has handed down a reprimand to a student-athlete.
“All of our student-athletes must adhere to the Pac-12’s policies on sportsmanship and standards of conduct, which call for our student-athletes to treat opponents with respect and create and ensure a collegiate atmosphere in which to conduct competition,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. “In these circumstances, Mr. Barkley’s comments were a clear violation of conference rules, and he is being appropriately reprimanded.”
After practice Tuesday morning, prior to hearing of the reprimand, Barkley defended his comments, which were deemed “derogatory” and “inflammatory” by the league office.
“Of course everyone blew it up, but what you didn’t hear is that it was coming from a place ofrespect for Vontaze,” Barkley told reporters after practice. “I’ve played with him for so long. I know him as a player and a person and think he is a wonderful player, which is what I said. He played a great game. It doesn’t change what I said about him — I think it’s still true — but you’ve got to be careful because people twist your words and do whatever they want with them.”
Burfict has gained notoriety during his career at Arizona State for drawing personal foul penalties and even head-butting Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz last year. On Saturday against the Trojans, he was only flagged once for a personal foul and intercepted Barkley on a screen play.
Though USC coach Lane Kiffin acknowledged that Barkley’s comments were inappropriate, he also defended his quarterback’s character.
“We talked to Matt right after he made that comment and told him that it was not appropriate,” Kiffin said in a statement. “He understood. Despite this reprimand, Matt Barkley represents everything that is good about college athletics. He is one of the finest student-athletes I have ever been around. You will not find a person with higher character (or) values.”
Barkley will not face any further repercussions stemming from the incident.