Pac-12 reprimands Matt Barkley

LOS ANGELES -- University of Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley was reprimanded by the Pac-12 Tuesday for comments made to the Los Angeles Times last week, in which he called Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict a "dirty player."

"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."

Earlier Tuesday, before learning of the reprimand, Barkley said that his comments were taken out of context and that he had said what he said out of respect for Burfict, who he called a "wonderful player."

"Of course everyone blew it up, but what you didn't hear is that it was coming from a place of respect for Vontaze," Barkley said. "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."

The original comments were first published Thursday in the week leading up to the Trojans' road game against the Sun Devils. And Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson referenced them in his postgame press conference following the Sun Devils' 43-22 win over the Trojans, saying, "If you are going to say something, you better watch what you say."

Burfict intercepted Barkley once, helping him up afterward when the quarterback tackled him downfield, and led the Sun Devils defense to the win as they produced four turnovers.

Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday that Barkley's comments were inappropriate but that he backed up his junior quarterback and captain anyway.

"We talked to Matt right after he made that comment and told him that it was not appropriate. He understood," Kiffin said in a statement. "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 did not and will not receive any additional punishment. The conference's reprimand was the only discipline, a school spokesperson said.

Barkley is in his third season as USC's starting quarterback, already ranking fifth in school history in total offense. He has passed for 1,119 yards in four games this season with 10 touchdowns -- including a school record-tying five TDs against Syracuse earlier this month -- and three interceptions.

He's also a squeaky-clean citizen with a solid grade-point average and a large leadership role for the Trojans, emerging as the players' public representative during the past two years of NCAA sanctions and setbacks.

While most winning quarterbacks prepared for bowl games last winter, Barkley spent his winter break on a humanitarian church trip to Nigeria.

USC (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) hosts Arizona on Saturday.

Pedro Moura covers USC for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.