If it seems there's a story a day about the dire state of affairs in the Pac-12, well, it's because there's a story a day about the dire state of affairs in the Pac-12.
This one harkens all the way back to September, to this.
That play was ruled a targeting on the field but Pac-12 general counsel Woodie Dixon, who has no formal officiating training, phoned into overrule -- incorrectly -- the trained, professional football officials on the Pac-12's payroll and wipe the clear targeting foul off the books.
Rather than hand Washington State a first-and-10 at the USC 10 with less than three minutes to play in a game it trailed by three, the Cougars had to remain at the 25, leading to a 38-yard field goal that was blocked, dooming the Wazzu to a loss that would later cost the team its first Pac-12 North championship and a shot at the program's first Rose Bowl in 15 seasons. Other than that, though, Dixon's incorrect overrule had no lasting consequences.
After Yahoo's report blew the cover off the scandal, the Pac-12 released a statement in October that said (emphasis added):
“The safety of our student-athletes has been and will always be a priority with the Pac-12 Conference. The Conference office has acknowledged that mistakes have been made in our football replay process specific to the USC vs. Washington State game played on September 21, 2018. The Conference office has taken action with the personnel involved with the game and have made important changes to the replay process and protocol. These revisions have been presented to the Athletic Directors and we support the changes that have been implemented. Moving forward, we have confidence in the integrity of our process and the personnel charged with monitoring the process.”
Now, three whistleblowers have stepped forward to remind Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott that the Wazzu-USC game was not the first time Dixon has interfered in the refereeing process.
The whistleblowers hold that title in the metaphorical and the literal sense in that they are former Pac-12 officials Chuck Czubin, Fred Gallagher and Mack Gilchrist, who all officiated the conference's games back when it was the Pac-8 and remained with the league until very recently (Gilchrist retired in 2017, the other two in 2018). In December, the trio sent a 2-page letter to Scott and Pac-12 VP of officiating David Coleman that said in part:
Mr. Scott, you know from personal experience this is not the first time he has overstepped his bounds…. Woodie singlehandedly caused the exit of the former Supervisor of Officials, and it is well known that several years ago he wanted to fire the gentleman who is now your Replay Supervisor. After the latest incident there is no question the Conference was far more interested in covering this up and finding the source of the info, rather than dealing with Woodie. You did so by removing a very valuable training tool for IR (instant replay). In your blind and bumbled approach you hid our reports and grades. This info had previously been transparent, which allowed IR to confer within itself…. Instead of dropping the hammer on Woodie you dropped it on IR.
The letter went on to say Scott was more concerned with covering up the Dixon-created problem than actually fixing it.
The letter arrived to the Pac-12 offices shortly after the new year, and was then sent to San Jose Mercury News writer Jon Wilner on Feb. 25 and a group of Pac-12 ADs -- Ray Anderson(Arizona State), Rob Mullens(Oregon), Scott Barnes (Oregon State), and Rick George(Colorado) -- three days after that. Wilner published the letter on Thursday, along with Scott's response to the three referees, which he sent on March 5.
“[W]e are always seeking new ways to improve our program, and have recently made the decision to hire an outside expert to initiate a review of our football officiating program. The review will include assessments of many of the areas you highlight in your letter, and will definitely take into account feedback from officials,” he wrote.
The Pac-12 hired Sibson Consulting to examine its refereeing program on Feb. 23, but it's unclear if the conference is interested in getting to the bottom of just how involved Dixon was or was not with the replay process during other games.
The conference has offered no comment on the officials' letter.