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Pac-12 to alter replay process after damning report showed conference official overruling decision in a game

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Pac-12 after dark is taking on a whole new meaning after this week as the conference has found itself right in the middle of another officiating scandal entirely of its own making (and not due to the incompetence of referees on the field).

The genesis of the scandal came last month when Washington State played USC at the Coliseum. The Trojans escaped with a win on a blocked last second field goal attempt by the Cougars but the far bigger story to emerge from the contest was the uproar over two potential targeting calls in the second half. One came in the fourth quarter as USC linebacker Porter Gustin nailed quarterback Gardner Minshew with a helmet-to-helmet hit that was not called for targeting (see below).

While that play came at a key moment in the game, it’s not the call that the ensuing uproar this week is truly focused on. That came in the third quarter when Trojans signal-caller J.T. Daniels took a knee trying to avoid a sack and was hit in the helmet after he had given himself up by Wazzu linebacker Logan Tago. Roughing the passer was called but not targeting. Via SB Nation: 

It seems that during the review process for targeting, according to Yahoo! Sports, Pac-12 general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs Woodie Dixon overruled the officials at the stadium and in the conference command center to claim that the call in question was not targeting — against the wishes of those whose job it is to, you know, actually officiate these things. It was documented as such in an internal report obtained by Yahoo! Sports.

“Our conference and our leadership has a deep commitment to the integrity of officiating and to protecting student-athlete health and well being,” Scott said Thursday, addressing the report during Pac-12 basketball media day. “What’s been reported was of significant concern to me. It’s new information to me that I was not aware of. There’s some things that have come out that I’ve had a chance to look into and have had discussions with the individuals involved directly.

“First, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve made mistakes with regards to our procedures involved with replay review in the command center. We mixed administrative oversight and leadership with real time replay review calls made by experts — on the field, in the stadium and in the command center. More over, we’ve allowed for ambiguity about who has the final call.”

The Pac-12 will now launch a more through review of how replay works in the conference and will immediately be changing procedures, starting with Friday’s games, and remove administrators from the replay review process entirely. 

“It was not (Dixon’s) intention — and he didn’t believe — he was making a decision. He was trying to offer a point of view on the calls,” Scott added. “From the replay official in the stadium’s perspective, and other people’s perspective, they clearly interpreted it as a decision or directive. From my perspective, that’s enough. Even if it wasn’t intended as he’s making the decision… none of that matters from my perspective. If there was a perception that he was involved in making the decision, that is inappropriate.”

While it goes without saying that every fan believes that their conference officials are some of the worst around, the Pac-12’s issues have been generating headlines for well over a decade. This episode though, goes well beyond a blown call. It’s a full on intervention on behalf of the conference office on an officiating decision. This is the kind of stuff fans and coaches have rumored happens all the time and is now documented publicly as something the Pac-12 has done, all but confirming a widely held conspiracy.

It also calls not only the decisions made in the Washington State-USC game into question, but also those of any controversial call of the past several years and especially since the conference command center was put in place last season. Whatever shred of credibility the Pac-12 had when it came to officiating is not only gone, but it will take significant changes to get even a shred back. This is an absolute nightmare scenario for the league and rebooting the entire system (to say nothing of a potential resignation or two) seems like the bare minimum that needs to occur over the coming weeks and months. 

Dixon will no longer be involved in the replay process and the conference office will be exploring additional changes to the entire officiating process going forward. But make no mistake, this yet another huge black mark on Scott and the Pac-12 itself. There’s already a growing basketball scandal that is sweeping up nearly half of the conference’s schools and this is yet another thing on the commissioner’s plate that he will have to deal with directly as fans remain up in arms and skeptical about the entire administration of the league.

Calls for Scott to resign as part of a wholesale house cleaning will grow by the day and you can certainly bet that the forthcoming investigation and resulting changes won’t do much to change the minds of many on the West Coast after a league’s worst fears were revealed for all to see this week.

Running back Deshawn McClease is latest player to leave Hokies

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It has been quite a busy couple of days for Virginia Tech transfer news. Within hours of Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente releasing a statement about the program’s dedication to strengthening the culture of the Virginia Tech football program after a handful of players had decided to leave the program, running back Deshawn McClease added his name to the list of transferring Hokies.

“After discussing with my family, we believe that it is best for me to transfer to another university following graduation this spring,” McClease said in a statement shared on his Twitter account Wednesday evening. “I am very eager to continue my football journey and further my education.”

McClease did not say where he is heading next. His departure is another blow to Virginia Tech’s offensive outlook for the 2019 season on a day that also saw starting quarterback Josh Jackson decide to transfer out of Virginia Tech a day after a couple of other transfer headlines surfaced around the program. As McClease mentioned in his statement, he is scheduled to graduate from Virginia Tech this spring. That will mean he will be eligible to play right away next fall for whatever team he ends up joining. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

McClease was Virginia Tech’s second-leading rusher in 2018 and likely would have been the starting running back in Blacksburg for the 2019 season had he decided to stick around. McClease rushed for 433 yards and two touchdowns last fall behind senior starter Steven Peoples.

Oklahoma State QB Keondre Wudtee leaving Stillwater via transfer

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The quarterback competition at Oklahoma State this spring has been reduced by one. Keondre Wudtee is one his way out of Stillwater after entering his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal, it was reported on Wednesday.

As noted by Pistols Firing, redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders appears to be the most likely candidate to land the starting job at quarterback for the Cowboys in 2019 following the graduation of Taylor Cornelius. Wudtee was the only other quarterback to record any passing stats for Oklahoma State in 2018 in his backup role, completing two of five attempts for 26 yards and a touchdown. A pair of wide receivers, Tylan Wallace and Dillon Stoner, were the only other players to attempt a pass for Oklahoma State in 2018.

Oklahoma State’s quarterback depth chart will still be padded even with the departure of Wudtee. Dru Brown, who transferred to Oklahoma State from Hawaii, is still around and the Cowboys added an early enrollee in three-star Class of 2019 quarterback Brendan Costello. Being enrolled early will allow Costello to get started with spring practices this semester in Stillwater and could potentially have him prepared to step in if needed in the fall.

As for Wudtee, we’ll see where he heads next. He will have to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules, of course.

After dustup with Uga, Texas president says Bevo is not leaving the sidelines

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Finally, a story NOT about the transfer portal.

Prior to the Sugar Bowl between Texas and Georgia, somebody decided it would be fun to do a photo with the live animal mascots of the Longhorns and Bulldogs. As Uga made his way over to see Texas mascot Bevo, the longhorn burst out of his caged area and made it known he was not about being a part of a fun photo opp. Fortunately, there were no injuries to report for any people or animals in the incident, but concerns about the handling of Bevo were certainly raised.

And despite pressure from PETA to stop including live animal mascots as part of the gameday experience and any others who may have voiced concerns about the worst-case scenarios involving a live steer, Texas president Gregory Fenves says Bevo will not be retired and forced to watch Longhorns football games from the ranch.

“We take the safety very seriously, but we’re going to continue to have Bevo as our mascot,” Fenves said in a recent interview with the American-Statesman. “He’s an incredible animal and a great symbol for the university. Seriously, we’re always looking at the protocols for Bevo at public events. I don’t think they need to be revised.”

So there you have it. Bevo stays. Sorry, not sorry, PETA. Unless Bevo does decide to enter the transfer portal…

Wisconsin TE Kyle Penniston enters transfer portal

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I have never seen it myself, but the transfer portal must be the place to be. Wisconsin tight end Kyle Penniston is just one of the many players putting his name in the transfer portal, as reported Wednesday, as he begins to look for a new place to finish up his college football career.

First reported by 247 Sports, Penniston will have one year of eligibility left to use for the 2019 season. He will be eligible to play right away this fall as a graduate transfer. Penniston enrolled at Wisconsin in 2015 after accepting an offer from Wisconsin over offers from Oklahoma and a handful of other top programs in the Class of 2015.

Penniston appeared in 13 games for the Badgers in 2018 with three receptions for 18 yards and a touchdown. The instant rise of Jake Ferguson at the tight end position on his way to becoming the second-leading receiver for Wisconsin meant Penniston likely wasn’t going to play a pivotal role in the offensive gameplan in 2019. Wisconsin should still be in decent shape at the tight end position this fall, not that losing an upper classmen at the position is ever a good situation for a program. It’s worth noting Penniston was recruited under former head coach Gary Andersen, who adopted a different type of offensive scheme that would have potentially been a better fit for Penniston.

Where Penniston goes next remains to be seen.