LOS ANGELES — Larry Scott is acutely aware that the Pac-12 has been the punching bag of the power five conferences the past couple years — on and off the field.
The beleaguered commissioner is hoping the programs get back on track after conference schools made the College Football Playoff only once the past four years and went 2-4 in New Year’s Six bowls. As for what Scott can control, he’s taking significant steps to address deficiencies in officiating.
Scott said during the conference’s media day Wednesday that the league will implement all of the recommendations from a Sibson Consulting report examining everything about the football officiating process.
The key recommendations include the head of officiating reporting directly to Scott rather than the football administrator, more consistency in grading and training from officiating supervisors and more transparency from the conference office in terms of questionable calls.
Scott said Woodie Dixon will no longer be involved in any officiating matters. Dixon called the league’s replay command center and overruled a targeting penalty in last year’s Washington State-USC game. It was that decision that damaged the league’s credibility and was the final impetus for an outside consultant.
“That was a real straw that made us all wake up and realize we have work to do,” said Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson, who also oversaw the report. “Those things can not be allowed to go on.”
Scott also said there have been changes with some supervisors. The report found that they generally lacked recent on-field and NFL experience as well as a lack of commentary and specifying errors made.
The most important change for fans might be the league office being more accountable for controversial calls. Anderson said they are not ready to go as far as having an officiating Twitter account, like what the SEC is planning, but being more nimble to immediate controversies, such as last year’s replay fiasco.
“Those types of egregious examples where we have to come out and say that a mistake was made rather than come out Monday or Tuesday we should be able to address in real time,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to make sure they are real, significant issues we can talk about.”
Anderson also raised the possibility of director of officiating David Coleman appearing on the conference website or Pac-12 Network to discuss calls from games the previous week.
To prevent a repeat of last year, the league will adopt a new replay manual that better organizes processes and procedures that should be used.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly said the most important thing to him is consistency, which he compared to driving.
“All you want to know is how are they going to officiate it. Are they going to allow you to go 68? Then you can go 68. Or are they going to hard line it at 65? That’s all you want as a coach,” he said.
Scott is hopeful that the conference can rebound on the field. Seven of the 12 coaches have been with their programs three years or less.
“We have to acknowledge many of the criticisms that the conference has received, and I can tell you that collectively we’ve taken a hard look at everything about how we’re operating,” he said. “I think the building blocks for our football programs are coming into place, and our teams are going to have amazing opportunities to prove themselves very early in the season.”