USC might be in the BCS national title hunt at 3-1, but quite a bit of attention surrounding the school in recent weeks has centered on injuries.
The school instituted new policies in August prohibiting media members from reporting injuries that players sustain over the course of in-season practices. And last Wednesday, USC coach Lane Kiffin stormed out of his post-practice press conference when a reporter asked about the return of an injured player, reigniting the hot topic.
Along with Oregon, UCLA, Utah, Washington and Washington State, USC is one of a handful of Pac-12 schools to have adopted policies related to the prevention of reporting injuries, in order to maintain a competitive edge.
“I know it is not exactly the best thing for you,” Kiffin said earlier this month, when speaking with reporters, “but we are also trying to protect our team.”
Following his abbreviated 29-second press conference, Kiffin called Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott last Friday to explain his recent actions, as well as to express his views on the subject, Scott said Saturday while speaking at halftime of USC’s game against California.
The walk-out had come on the heels of news that the third-year coach had banned Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News for two weeks after the beat writer had reported sophomore kicker Andre Heidari was scheduled to undergo knee surgery. Though insisting it violated the school’s injury policy, USC reinstated Wolf about two days later.
“[Kiffin] knew I was concerned about what I was seeing and hearing, and there was some tension and frustration between the press and some of our coaches,” Scott said. “He called to make sure I was aware. So he wanted me to hear his point of view.”
In the wake of the controversy, Scott reiterated that the Pac-12’s next athletic directors’ meeting will discuss the possibility of adopting a conference-wide injury policy, similar to the ones used in the NFL. The meeting is scheduled to take place Oct. 8-9 in Berkeley.
“I don’t have a position yet,” Scott said. “Except that, given what I’ve seen, the conference should have a serious conversation about it and decide if there is a conference-wide policy or is there something better left for the schools … There’s divergent opinion on this.”
Over the past month, Scott has spoken with commissioners from the ACC, the Big East and the SEC about the NFL-style reporting system. The ACC is the only one to have enacted a policy current in place, but both the Big East and SEC have explored the option.
Should the conference pass a similar policy, Kiffin said he would be OK with the change.
“The whole thing is not being at a competitive disadvantage,” he said. “We play a number of teams that don’t talk about their injuries. For us to tell them who’s going to play and who’s not, I don’t know how that could make sense to anybody. So yeah, that would solve these issues.”
Players, though, insist they’re largely indifferent on the issue.
“That stuff doesn’t get to us,” said senior safety and team captain T.J. McDonald. “They make a bigger deal in the media than us. We don’t worry about any of that. We just try to stick to the gameplan and do what we’ve got going.”