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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.

Texas’ Jeffrey McCulloch involved in single-car accident after hydroplaning, hitting pole

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One member of the Texas Longhorns football program was involved in an off-field incident this week that, thankfully, sounds a little scarier than it (hopefully) turned out to be.

Tom Herman revealed Tuesday that Jeffrey McCulloch was involved in a single-car accident Tuesday.  Per the head coach, the linebacker hydroplaned on a wet, slick Austin road and hit a light pole.

McCulloch was treated at the scene and then went to a local hospital before eventually being released, the Dallas News reported.

However, the Austin American Statesman writes that “[a]fter complaining about neck soreness, McCulloch was expected to have a CT scan.”

“All early indications is that he should be OK,” Herman said. “Just want to make sure everything is good to go.”

On Twitter Tuesday night, McCulloch also indicated that he’s fine.

McCulloch, a junior, has played in all seven games this season, starting one of those contests.  He’s listed as the starting B-backer on the Longhorns’ most recent depth chart.

Suspect arrested in shooting of two FIU football players

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There’s been a rather significant development in an off-field incident involving a pair of Florida International football players.

According to WPLG-TV among other outlets, 29-year-old Lorenzo Shine has been arrested in connection to the Sept. 6 drive-by shooting of running back Anthony Jones (pictured) and offensive lineman Mershawn Miller.  Shine, who admitted to driving his girlfriend’s car at the time of the shooting, is facing two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

From the CBS affiliate in Miami:

Anthony Jones and Mershawn Miller were visiting Miller’s brother at his home in the 2400 block of NW 140th Street when a car pulled up and shots were fired from within the vehicle, according to police.

At least 16 shots were fired at those sitting on the porch. Surveillance video from a nearby home shows bullets flying, as two men run to the back of the house.

Using the surveillance video, police tracked down the owner of the car. The owner of the car said she didn’t remember driving it on the day of the drive-by. Lorenzo Shine, 29, then came out of the woman’s house and retrieved two bags and something from the car’s glove box which he put in one of the bags. He took both bags inside the house.

The homeowner consented to a police search of the residence for guns. Inside one of the bags that Shine had removed from the car was a 40 caliber pistol.

Shine had been released from prison in late June after serving time for armed robbery and burglary.  Police have been unable to unearth a motive in the shooting.

Jones was shot in the face and the back during the incident, while Miller, his high school teammate in Miami, was shot in the arm.  The latter was released from the hospital shortly after the incident, while the former required a lengthier stay, although he was released after a two-week hospital stay.

Jones, the nephew of former Florida State star Dalvin Cook, ran for a team-high 88 yards in FIU’s season-opening loss to Indiana.  He also accounted for a career-high two rushing touchdowns in the same game.  Miller saw his first career action in the opener after redshirting as a true freshman last season.

Neither player has played since being shot.

Status of nation’s leading receiver up in the air for Colorado vs. Washington

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One of the nation’s most prolific players on the offensive side of the ball may not be available this weekend.  Or he may be.  One of the two.

Late in the third quarter of then-undefeated Colorado’s loss to USC, Laviska Shenault went down with a toe injury and didn’t return.  With Washington, also reeling from a tough overtime loss to Oregon, on tap this coming weekend, Shenault’s status is decidedly up in the air.

“We haven’t found out anything on it yet,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said by way of the Boulder Daily Camera. “They’re still evaluating everything. We haven’t found out any total results or anything. He still has a sore toe, but we’ll see.”

Per the Daily Camera, the wide receiver didn’t practice Monday and was seen wearing a walking boot.  As of Tuesday, he’s still considered day-to-day.

Shenault currently leads the country in receptions per game (10) and receiving yards per game (130).  His six receiving touchdowns are second in the Pac-12 and tied for 14th nationally.

TE who took leave for personal reasons will now transfer from Pitt

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What was a temporary absence has apparently turned into a permanent one.

Oct. 10, a Pitt spokesperson confirmed that “[i]t was mutually agreed upon that Tyler Sear will take leave of the team for personal reasons.” Less than a week later, the tight end took to Twitter to announce that, “after much communication and discussion between myself, my coaches, and loved ones… I have decided to pursue a fresh start and transfer.”

In the social media missive, Sears indicated that he took “a leave of absence to focus on my mental health.”

Sear started five of the first six games this season for the Panthers, catching two passes for nine yards.  He started two games as a freshman last season and caught one pass for 10 yards.

Sear is the third tight end to leave the program in the last seven months.

In March, it was confirmed that UCLA transfer Chris Clark was taking a leave of absence from Pitt; the projected 2018 starter is not expected to return.  In July, Charles Reeves Jr. was dismissed for unspecified violations of team rules.