Pac-12 officiating has long been the butt of too many jokes in college football. There was the infamous onside kick at the end of the 2006 Oregon-Oklahoma game that saw Pac-10 officials award the ball to the Ducks despite Sooners running back Allen Patrick emerging from the pile with pigskin in hand. (That crew was suspended by the conference.)
And who can forget the comedy of errors at the end of the Wisconsin-Arizona State game in 2013? (Those refs were publicly reprimanded.)
But we've now got an official, documented scandal that involves player safety.
As Pete Thamel reports for Yahoo, a clear, obvious targeting call was overturned during USC's win over Washington State on Sept. 21 by a "third party" who is not a trained official.
As shown below, Wazzu linebacker Logan Tago strikes USC quarterback J.T. Daniels directly in the head. This is a tell-tale sign of targeting: leading with the head to create a strike upon a defenseless player directly in the head.
The play was flagged for roughing the passer and reviewed for targeting. Replay officials both on site at LA Coliseum and in the Pac-12's command center in San Francisco agreed that the play was targeting, but both groups were overruled by Pac-12 general counsel and senior VP for business affairs Woodie Dixon, according to Thamel.
Thamel also obtained the Pac-12's internal 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].”
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott acknowledged the report, calling it "a concern."
“Our instant replay supervisor [Bill Richardson] is the ultimate decision maker,” Scott said. “The misperception that in this case, the ultimate decision from the command center was made by someone other than the instant replay supervisor is a concern.”
It's not just "a concern," it's a player safety issue.
And what's worse: it wasn't even the only obvious targeting non-call in that game.
In the third quarter of the same game, USC linebacker Porter Gustin launched into the head of a defenseless Wazzu quarterback Gardner Minshew but was allowed to stay in the game.
This isn't awarding the wrong team the ball (as bad as that was) or bumbling through a penalty announcement. This is a scandal that compromises the integrity of Pac-12 officiating while also exposing its players to dangerous blows to the head with no recourse.
This is, to sum it up in two words, really bad.