San Francisco • For the second consecutive year, a Pac-12 Conference Media Day has been overshadowed by scandal and malfeasance.
Last October, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott was bombarded with questions regarding what was just the beginning to an investigation into deep, widespread corruption in college basketball, with reports pointing at several programs in his own conference.
On Thursday morning in downtown San Francisco, Scott stepped to the same podium still asked to discuss the state of Pac-12 basketball and if systemic issues are plaguing the conference.
Which he did. But less than 24 hours after an explosive report from Yahoo! Sports showing that a third, unauthorized party influenced a replay review during USC’s win over Washington State on Sept. 21, Scott had to address yet another haymaker to the conference’s credibility.
“I take responsibility,” Scott said.
The report Wednesday evening followed a document trail after a helmet-to-helmet hit last week on USC quarterback JT Daniels by WSU linebacker Logan Tago. The hit was clearly targeting, according to both the in-stadium replay officials and the replay officials at the Pac-12 command center in San Francisco, according to an internal replay report obtained by Yahoo. Under that ruling, Tago should have been ejected.
Instead, Tago stayed in the game. He was not ejected because a third party disagreed with the replay officials at the Los Angeles Coliseum and at the command center in San Francisco, the report said. Woodie Dixon, who is the Pac-12’s general counsel and senior VP of business affairs, phoned in his opinion to replay officials that he didn’t believe the hit was worthy of a targeting call and mandatory ejection, the internal documents show, and that his opinion overruled conference officials working the game.
Scott said it was not Dixon’s intention to provide a hard-line order regarding the call, instead simply giving replay officials something to consider. But after looking into it overnight, it was clear, Scott said, the officials clearly interpreted it as a directive.
That not only has proved to be a massive issue regarding long-term trust with trained officials, but will also likely mar how fans will digest every controversial call for a long time to come.
“I want to be clear,” Scott said. “I’ve come to the conclusion we’ve made mistakes in terms of our procedures involved with replay review in the command center. We mixed administrative oversight in our leadership with real-time replay review calls made by experts on the field, in the stadium and in the command center. Moreover, we’ve allowed for ambiguity about whose got the final call and who makes the ultimate decisions on replay review.”
Scott took the blame for what has quickly grown into a full-fledged scandal. In response, he said the Pac-12 will launch an internal investigation into how the conference handles every replay review. In addition, the conference will also ensure that conference administrators like Dixon will have zero involvement in real-time decision-making when it comes to replays in Pac-12 games.
“Those decisions will be solely in the purview of our replay officials at the stadium, in the command center and on the field,” Scott said.
The priority now for Scott and the Pac-12 is having them prove that there is no undue influence on Pac-12 calls in games.
“We made a mistake in allowing this situation to develop,” he said, “to allowing any shred of concern about integrity or ambiguity.”
Scott said he will now talk to his peers around the country regarding this situation, searching for what he describes as “what’s best in class” as the Pac-12 tries to get its replay house in order.