News broke earlier this week that a clear targeting call during the Sept. 28 game between USC and Washington State was overturned by a “third party.” As Pete Thamel wrote for Yahoo, two sets of replay officials — one at LA Coliseum, the other at Pac-12 headquarters in San Francisco — agreed Wazzu linebacker Logan Tago targeted USC quarterback J.T. Daniels, but Pac-12 general counsel/senior VP for business affairs Woodie Dixon said the play wasn’t targeting, and so Tago was erroneously allowed to remain in the game.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) October 11, 2018
This is how the exchange was described in the Pac-12’s internal officiating report:
“Both the replay booth and the command center agreed this was a targeting foul, but unfortunately a third party did not agree so the targeting was removed and we went with the ruling on the field of [roughing the passer] with no targeting. This didn’t play well on TV. Reversed my stoppage for [targeting] to not [targeting].”
This is a legitimate scandal, because it endangers player safety and compromises the integrity of the Pac-12’s officiating process.
As timing would have it, the Pac-12’s basketball media day was on Thursday, and league commissioner Larry Scott addressed the scandal.
“What’s been reported was of significant concern to me,” Scott said.
Scott said the Tago-Daniels play was a case of misunderstanding made possible by the conference’s mishandling of the chain of command. Dixon, Scott said, thought he was providing an opinion on the Tago-Daniels play, but the replay officials thought he was voicing a command.
“We’ve mixed administrative oversight and leadership with realtime replay review calls made by our experts on the field, in the stadium and in the command center,” he said. “Moreover, we’ve allowed for ambiguity about who’s got the final call and who makes the ultimate decisions in replay review… It’s a mistake that we allowed ambiguity.”
The Pac-12 will now trigger a “thorough” review to examine policy and procedures in the conference’s replay process, and Scott said the league will immediately remove “conference leadership” — meaning suits like Dixon — from the replay equation. “They will have no involvement in the realtime decision making of replay review,” Scott said. “Those decisions will be solely in the purview of our replay officials at the stadium, in the command center and on the field.”
This seems to be common knowledge among other conferences, but the Pac-12 has long showcased a creative streak in botching otherwise simple officiating procedures.