USC backup quarterback Cody Kessler wears jersey No. 6 -- unless, of course,… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
USC pulled a little trickery after scoring a touchdown against Colorado on Saturday. The team lined up as if it was going to kick the extra-point attempt, except backup quarterback Cody Kessler was set to receive the snap instead of the regular holder, punter Kyle Negrete.
Nothing wrong with that -- except that Kessler was wearing No. 35, which is Negrete's jersey number. Kessler, who was wearing his usual No. 6 before and after the play, went on to run the ball into the end zone. The two points were nullified by a holding penalty.
Technically there may still be nothing wrong with what USC did. According to the NCAA rule book, it is legal for players to wear the same number as long as they are not on the field at the same time.
"We're just playing within the rules of college football," Coach Lane Kiffin said.
But the rule book also includes a section called the "The Football Code," which contains a list of "unethical practices." The first item is "Changing numbers during the game to deceive the opponent."
So while the Trojans may have been playing within the rules, what they did may also be considered unethical. But does that even matter?
Writers from around the Tribune Co. will discuss whether such a jersey switch during a game is OK as long as it doesn't break any rules. Check back throughout the day for their responses, and join the conversation by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.
Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune
I would love to hear Lane Kiffin’s take on “ethics.” My guess on what he’d say: “Things that people have who don’t want to win.”
Yes, having players change jerseys during a game is unethical. It’s also annoying for those trying to watch or cover a game. It’s the kind of bush-league thing you do if you think your team isn’t good enough to win because of blocking and tackling.
Minnesota defensive players are doing something interesting with their jerseys this season. Game by game, they alternate donning No. 51, which was worn by linebacker Gary Tinsely before he died suddenly in April from a heart condition. They see wearing No. 51 as a way to honor their friend.
Kiffin’s switcheroo? There’s no honor in that.
[Updated at 1:46 p.m.:
Baxter Holmes, Los Angeles Times
If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin', we're often told.
But while USC and Coach Lane Kiffin may or may not have "cheated" the rules by switching jerseys during a game, they definitely cheated the ethics of the game. You know, ethics: the social system to which morals (those things that define personal character) are applied.
So, no, it's not OK. Just because there may be a loophole in the rules doesn't mean coaches and teams should exploit matters. The same goes for faking injuries to stop the clock.
USC is college football's face of the West, and it's on the sport's Mount Rushmore. For the Trojans to ethically stoop so low for such a silly, practically insignificant advantage sullies their reputation. It's inexcusable.
David Teel, Newport News Daily Press
Leave it to USC Coach Lane Kiffin, college football’s lightning rod, to wade into the ethically murky waters of in-game number changes. Against the letter of the law? Perhaps, since, as the L.A. Times notes, the rule book calls changing numbers to deceive opponents “unethical.”
Regardless, Kiffin’s stunt certain violates the spirit of the rules. Was Kiffin playing mind games with Colorado, USC’s opponent that day? Only if he was bored. The 1-6 Buffaloes were no threat to Kiffin’s Trojans, witness the 50-6 final. The more likely targets were future opponents such as unbeatens Oregon and Notre Dame, whose coaches will scout the Colorado tape.
But such shenanigans are unlikely to faze the Ducks’ Chip Kelly and Fighting Irish’s Brian Kelly, coaches far more accomplished than Kiffin.]