USC player fight in locker room following Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech

USC Trojans quarterback Max Wittek (13) has the ball knocked down by Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets linebacker Brandon Watts (11) during the second half of the 79th annual Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl stadium. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports)

Senior quarterback Matt Barkley was supposed to the be hero of the 2012 college football season. He was supposed to win a Heisman Trophy while leading the No. 1-overall USC Trojans to a BCS National Championship over the SEC.

Instead, Barkley watched from the sidelines as redshirt freshman Max Wittek flailed through season-ending losses to Notre Dame and then lowly Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

After that embarrassing loss, sending the Trojans into the history books as the first No. 1-preseason team to finish that same year with six losses, tempers finally boiled over.

And a “flat-out brawl” broke out in the locker room.

According to ESPN and the Los Angeles Daily News, the fight began when some of the team’s younger players questioned the leadership of Mr. Barkley himself. The freshmen called Barkley out after the record-setting quarterback failed to get going when the going got tough. He sat out of the team’s most important games, and the final two games of his collegiate career.

Barkley, now preparing for his career at the professional level, spoke to Colin Cowherd on “The Herd” regarding the incident.

“I would say tempers flared, yeah, but that’s football,” Barkley said. “It’s an emotional game and when you end your season on a negative note like that, emotions are going to be high. Guys were expressing their opinions, for better or worse, but we had it under control. It was nothing to be alarmed about.

“If you ask some of the guys who were there what happened they’ll negate those claims about people throwing punches and all that stuff or whatever was said,” Barkley said. “Obviously in the locker room after that game, which was a loss, there’s gonna be words exchanged. People weren’t in the best mood, but that wasn’t to say we were fighting each other or there was an altercation.”

Barkley can say what he likes, but people are going to believe what they are going to believe. More to the point, people are going to listen to who they are going to listen to, and plenty other USC players are talking all about the “chaos” in that locker room. One player spoke, but only on condition of anonymity.

“When I came into the locker room … it was just pure chaos in there,” the player said. “… I think there was a lot of frustration. There were some things said by some guys on our team who are just hotheads.”

There was one player, freshman offensive tackle Zach Banner, who was more than willing to put his name on his complaints. The big young man pulled no punches (zing!) when talking about those seniors who were supposed to be setting a great example. He should have been able to look up to guys like Barkley.

“It’s going to be a whole new family atmosphere next season and you can quote me on that. For the seniors, it’s terrible.”

Whether or not the rumors regarding the locker room fight are true does not matter anymore. What Banner said is true.

And his head coach, Lane Kiffin, after dealing with sketchy recruiting tendencies, deflating footballs and switching players’ jersey numbers at halftime, could not be reached for comment.

So we’ll comment for him: Terrible.

At least Kiffin’s still in LA; who’s going to replace Chip Kelly at Oregon?