Yet another black mark for the Pac-12 has led commissioner Larry Scott to admit errors made by the conference and institute immediate changes to how it will handle its football replay procedure.
Ahead of a weekend in which the Pac-12 should be celebrating a pair of marquee matchups on the gridiron, Scott took time during Pac-12 basketball media day on Thursday in San Francisco to address a Yahoo Sports report that conference leadership has influenced decisions during in-game replay reviews.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve made mistakes in terms of our procedures involved with replay review in the command center,” Scott said. “We nixed administrative oversight and leadership with real-time replay review calls made by our experts on the field, in the stadium and in the command center.”
The Yahoo report detailed a play during Southern California’s 39-36 win against Washington State on Sept. 21. Late in the third quarter, Washington State’s Logan Tago dove at USC quarterback JT Daniels, who had already taken a knee, with obvious helmet-to-helmet contact. Officials on the field threw a flag for roughing the passer and targeting.
According to the report, in-stadium replay officials, as well as replay officials in the Pac-12 command center in San Francisco, agreed it was targeting, but a “third party” did not agree. Targeting was waved off and Tago stayed in the game.
Yahoo identified Woodie Dixon, the Pac-12’s general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs, as that third party. Dixon oversees football for the conference.
Scott said the conference has made a mistake in allowing “ambiguity in who makes those decisions,” and that allowing Dixon to have a say in those decisions was a mistake “because he’s got other responsibilities and he’s not an official.”
With that, Scott announced two immediate actions.
“We’re going to launch a more thorough review of how replay works in our conference,” Scott said, “and I’ll have a chance to work with folks internally, with our members, to review policies and procedures regarding football replay review and the role of the command center.
“And, secondly, we’re immediately changing procedures so that conference leadership responsible for football and responsible for officiating, while they’ll continue to play their important oversight role in those functions, they will have no involvement in the real-time decision making behind replay review. Those decisions will be solely in the purview of our replay officials at the stadium, in the command center, and on the field.”
Scott added that Dixon did not believe he was making the final call on the play.
“He believed he was trying to offer a point of view,” Scott said, while acknowledging that replay officials believed Dixon was making the decision. “If he was involved in making the decision, that was inappropriate.”
Scott added that Dixon’s involvement in replay decisions in the past “has not been significant,” but feels it’s important to remove any perception that Dixon will be involved in the future.
Pac-12 officiating has long been criticized, and this latest report adds to what has been a rough stretch for the conference, which has fallen behind other Power 5 conferences in revenue and is coming off a dismal 1-8 record in bowl games.
Overturning what seemed to be an obvious targeting call has led many to question the integrity of the Pac-12, but Scott said he hopes this policy change will be a step in the right direction.
“Integrity of officiating in the conference is a top, top priority, along with student-athlete health,” he said.
Big weekend on tap
On the field, the North and South divisions won’t be decided this weekend, but there are two massive games on the schedule.
No. 7 Washington (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) leads the North and can seize control of that race with a win at No. 17 Oregon (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday. The Ducks, meanwhile, need the win to stay in the race for the division title.
In the South, No. 19 Colorado (5-0, 2-0) has a shot to solidify its hold on the top spot by defeating second-place Southern California (3-2, 2-1). It’s possible that the Buffs could come out of the weekend with at least a two-game lead on everyone else in the South. USC, on the other hand, would be in the driver’s seat with a win.
Another key matchup in the South has Arizona (3-3, 2-1) visiting Utah (3-2, 1-2) on Friday night. Both need a win to stay in contention for the division title.
CU head coach Mike MacIntyre was named Thursday to the midseason watch list for the Dodd Trophy coach of the year award. MacIntyre won the award in 2016. … Washington’s Jake Browning needs 185 passing yards to get break into the top-10 in Pac-12 history. He has 10,612 yards in his career. … UCLA running back Joshua Kelley has had back-to-back 100-yard games, the first Bruin to do that since 2015. … Four Pac-12 teams have a bye this week: Arizona State, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State.