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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.

Return to coaching ‘not in the plans’ for Mark Richt

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As Miami was closing out the first spring under new head coach Manny Diaz, former Miami head coach Mark Richt was close by keeping an eye on things with his former program. On Saturday, it was announced Richt will be heading to a role in television and he said what so many coaches in similar positions have suggested before; he is content away from coaching and not planning a comeback.

Not yet, at least.

Richt was officially announced to be the newest member of the college football TV crew being put together by ESPN for the upcoming ACC Network. With plenty of experience in and around the ACC in his coaching career, not to mention his extended period of time in the SEC, Richt should fit right in with the target audience for the ACC Network, which will launch later this year.

“I was able to coach for 12 seasons in the ACC, and so, I’m very excited about the opportunity to join ACC Network as a football analyst,” Richt said in a released statement. “I’m not only looking forward to helping tell the story of one of the greatest football conferences in America but also staying close to the game that I love so much.”

The obvious question is just how long will Richt remain in a TV role? Maybe he truly is ready for life after coaching, but history has shown many coaches using TV jobs as temporary placeholders before the next coaching opportunity comes along. Urban Meyer spent one year in the booth calling games for ESPN after retiring from Florida before heading to Ohio State (Meyer, of course, is back in TV as an analyst for FOX Sports this season). Rich Rodriguez spent a cup of coffee with CBS Sports Network after losing his job at Michigan before he eventually returned to coach at Arizona. Even Mack Brown is making his long-awaited return to the sideline this season at North Carolina after spending years with ESPN after retiring from Texas.

Richt may still have some coaching gears in him that will get him to come back at some point, but for now, that’s not the plan he is putting out there. If the right offer comes along, who knows. For the 2019 season, at least, we’ll get to see how Richt does on TV.

Helmet sticker to Sports Illustrated.

Appalachian State, Charlotte line up four-game series

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Could a new in-state rivalry be about to form in the state of North Carolina? Though it will take decades to rival the intensity of the Duke-UNC rivalry, perhaps the seeds are being planted for a budding rivalry between Appalachian State and Charlotte. The two schools have agreed to a four-game scheduling agreement that builds off a current two-game series in the midst of being played.

Appalachian State and Charlotte will exchange home dates between 2026 and 2029 on an annual basis. Appalachian State will host the 49ers on Sept. 19, 2026 to begin the four-game set. The series will shift to Charlotte on Sept. 18, 2027 and return to Appalachian State’s campus on Sept. 16, 2028. Charlotte will host the final game in the agreement on Sept. 15, 2029.

“This is such a natural rivalry, and I am excited for our program to be able to compete against App on a more regular basis,” Charlotte athletics director Mike Hill said in a released statement. “I appreciate [Appalachian State AD] Doug Gillin for working with us to schedule this series. We would have liked to have started the series sooner but several long-term contracts on both sides prevented us from doing so. We are looking forward to our trip to Boone this fall as well as this future rivalry series.”

The two schools met last season for the first time, with the Mountaineers winning by a score of 45-9. Appalachian State will host Charlotte this season on Sept. 7.

Oregon State unveils new uniforms for 2019

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Oregon State has pulled back the curtain on their new Nike football uniforms for the 2019 season, and the casual observer probably won’t notice much of a difference from most of the looks the Beavers have worn in recent seasons. Or should that just be the Beavs?

All three uniforms to be worn by Oregon State this season will have the abbreviated nickname of the Beavers, “Beavs,” slapped across the front of the uniform just above the uniform number. The uniform set comes with a traditional white uniform and two solid-color combinations of black or orange to be worn at home. All three uniforms are topped with a black helmet with an orange stripe down the middle and the orange Beaver logo on the side of the helmets.

From top to bottom, these are fine looks for the Oregon State football program. And the different combinations that can be thrown together should keep things interesting and refreshing on a weekly basis for the program in the fall. The best combination may be one with the orange pants and black jersey. And although the only helmet shown off is the black helmet, never count Oregon State out from throwing in an alternate helmet at some point in time.

Tate Martell bounces back in final Miami spring scrimmage

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The internet was blazing with reactions to a poor showing by new Miami quarterback Tate Martell during a recent spring scrimmage, and it seemed as though we could be in for a sub-par follow-up as the Hurricanes closed out their spring with a scrimmage in Orlando. Martell was not one of the top two quarterbacks to start the spring game. N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams were the first passers to get some work in.

As the afternoon continued, however, Martell seemed to provide some highlights with his new teammates at Miami, suggesting there still could be a positive outlook moving forward for the Ohio State transfer. Martell ended the spring on a positive note by throwing for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

So maybe Martell just had a rough day in the previous scrimmage that was scrutinized heavily and maybe he showed to new Miami head coach Manny Diaz the ability to shrug that off his shoulder pads to come back strong the next time out. There could be some positive to be drawn from this performance, but whether that means Martell will elevate himself above Perry for the starting job is a bit of a reach right now.

With the spring in the books, Diaz and his staff will now be able to spend some time digging into everything that observed in the spring practices and scrimmages and determines what needs to be done in the summer leading up to the start of the new season. Martell is eligible to play for the Hurricanes this season after receiving approval from the NCAA for his waiver request after leaving Ohio State. Unlike some transfer quarterbacks, Martell didn’t walk into a spot where he is going to be given the starting job right away. If the spring is any indication, he needs to prove he is worthy of the starting job in Miami.