Well, for all those hoping that Lane Kiffin and company could get through the week without another distraction, think again. Most recently, the highly-touted freshman running back Dillon Baxter, who enrolled at USC for the spring semester and participated in spring ball in April, has been suspended for the season opener September 2nd at Hawaii for a violation of teams rules, according to Kiffin in a story published by Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.
"This is a very, very severe punishment, but it was imperative to make a strong message, especially to our first group of freshmen our first year here, and potentially the most talented player on the team, that we have high standards for our players on and off the field," Kiffin told the media earlier Wednesday.
However, he declined to comment on what specifically the violation was for.
But as you may remember, Baxter was also suspended for both of Tuesday's workouts for being "late for something," and instead, was forced to spend the time undergoing a series of various conditioning drills. In short, he has been in the doghouse as of late.
But it doesn't appear to be one incident that put Baxter in hot water with the coaching staff. Per Gary Klein:
Kiffin said he decided to suspend Baxter after "examining his seven months here."
But if there was one situation that forced Kiffin's hand, it may have been a Monday night party at Flour Tower, where the football players are housed until the student body moves back to campus on August 18th.
More after the jump.
Late Tuesday night, The Times asked Kiffin if Baxter's punishment was related to a USC Department of Public Safety incident report filed at 2:47 a.m. Tuesday. It indicates that officers were at Fluor Tower, where USC players are housed for the first few weeks of training camp, when an incident occurred.
"A student was cited to Judicial Affairs for violating a team curfew and being under the influence of a controlled substance," the report said. Neither Baxter nor any other player is named in the report.
Asked Wednesday after the Trojans' morning walkthrough if the report related to Baxter, Kiffin and other school officials declined to comment, citing privacy issues that prevent them from speaking publicly about students that have been cited to the school's Office of Judicial Affairs.
But a source with knowledge of the situation said Baxter was the unnamed individual in the report and that officers smelled marijuana in the dormitory. The source, unauthorized to speak publicly about the matter, requested anonymity.
Granted, the program doesn't need yet another distraction right now. In a span of just two weeks, we've seen the Tennessee Titans file a lawsuit against the school, as well as Stanley Havili break T.J. Bryant's cheakbone. Certainly, this team doesn't need more negative headlines, especially in the wake of its tumultuous offseason. After all, it's time to move on to more relevant issues, largely involving Xs and Os. But this doesn't help that. It simply hinders that progression.
But for those calling this another "controversy" for Kiffin and USC, it's not. It's not even the slightest bit controversial. A student-athlete violated team rules, and was disciplined accordingly. That's that. It doesn't have anything to do with Kiffin or the perception many hold that says USC "fosters a culture of cheating and recklessness."
Plain and simply, this is a case of college kids surprising everybody by having parties, drinking, and smoking. This stuff happens at Florida, Texas, and even (gasp) UCLA. College kids, particularly athletes, do dumb stuff, and if caught, student affairs and coaching staffs should take appropriate action.
That's what we've seen here with Kiffin in relation to Baxter. Now, let's move on to more important things - like the actual season.