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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.

Report: Vanderbilt lands Florida transfer in Malik Langham

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Former Florida defensive end Malik Langham has found his new college football home, and it resides in the SEC. Langham is heading to Vanderbilt, according to a report from 247 Sports earlier today.

Vanderbilt has not officially announced the addition of Langham at this time, and there is no direct confirmation offered by Langham on his social media profiles. However, Vanderbilt was one of the school s Langham originally evaluated during his recruiting process out of high school and the Commodores remained a potential landing spot for his latest transfer recruitment as well.

Langham was a four-star member of Florida’s Class of 2018, which was the first recruiting class signed by current Gators head coach Dan Mullen. The Huntsville, Alabama native committed to Florida just days after taking an official visit Auburn as his recruiting process came down the final stretch in the Class of 2018. Alabama had previously been considered a favorite to land his recruitment in the weeks leading up to signing day in 2018.  With plenty of offers to consider, Langham also made an official visit to Notre Dame in addition to unofficial visits to Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Louisville, Ole Miss and more.

Langham appeared in two games for Florida in 2018, in which he recorded one assist on a tackle as a backup option for the Gators. Under the NCAA’s revised redshirt rules implemented last fall, Langham is able to preserve a year of eligibility because he did not appear in more than four games last season. That will give Langham four years to still play, although he will have to sacrifice one year of eligibility for the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Peyton Manning and David Cutcliffe inducted to Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame

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Former Tennessee quarterback, NFL Pro Bowler, and Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning was formally inducted to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Perhaps it was fitting that he was inducted alongside his position coach and offensive coordinator, and current Duke head coach, David Cutcliffe. The two were added to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame over the weekend.

“Coach Cutcliffe –  he’s such a mentor for me,” Manning said of his former quarterback coach in Knoxville. “He’s my coach; he’s my friend. He kind of remained my coach when I was in the NFL. To be in with Coach Cutcliffe, it’s very special and I’m very proud.”

Manning and Cutcliffe have remained close years after Manning left Tennessee for the NFL. Manning has relied on Cutcliffe in offseasons to prepare and rehab when needed with Cutcliffe nearby to offer his insight and expertise in helping Manning remain one of the top passers in the NFL. Manning has spent a few seasons in retirement form the NFL now and is heading to the ultimate hall of fame soon enough in Canton, Ohio. Manning has already been inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame, fittingly enough along with former antagonist, Florida head coach Steve Spurrier.

Joining Manning and Cutcliffe were former Tennessee student-athletes Charles Davis (currently a broadcaster for FOX’s NFL coverage) and Kara Lawson. Davis is a former defensive back for the Vols program and was a part of Tennessee’s 1985 SEC championship team. He spent years broadcasting college football games before being given a job covering the NFL instead. Lawson is a former women’s basketball player for the storied Tennessee basketball program. Like Davis, Lawson has been in the broadcasting game covering basketball.

Dad of former Northwestern QB donated a real, stuffed wildcat to ‘Cats new facility

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Northwestern’s state-of-the-art football facility, literally on the shore of Lake Michigan, is now fully operational, at a low, low cost of $260 million.

The facility has everything — including an actual wild cat.

 

According to a story by Yahoo‘s Eric Edholm, a stuffed cat was donated to the program by Walter Siemian, the father of former Wildcat quarterback Trevor Siemian. The plan was to originally sell it and use the proceeds to benefit the program, but apparently Pat Fitzgerald saw the cat and fell in love.

Walter Siemian took down the predator — legally, of course — last November, sent the cat of prey in question to a taxidermist and then donated it to the program.

The initial understanding was that it would be sold, with the proceeds benefitting the program. After all, these things draw some serious coin. (One current listing here for a mountain lion, which this mammal appears to be, is going for more than $12,000.) But once Fitzgerald saw it, the story goes, there was no way he was letting it leave.

The cat was staying put. That’s also easy to see why. And it’s now the first thing you see when you enter the coaches’ meeting rooms.

The hope with facilities like these is that the enhanced investment into football will lead to the Northwestern coaching staff singing a different class of recruit, which will in turn allow the program to pair their stuffed mascot with some Big Ten championship trophies.

That’s the hope, at least.

Illinois lands former USC WR Josh Imatorbhebhe

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The Los Angeles-to-Champaign pipeline is alive and well.

After landing wide receiver Trevon Sidney and defensive end Oluwole Betiku, Jr., the Fighting Illini have added wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, he announced Monday.

“Transitions are never easy, but the support has definitely helped lighten the load,” Imatorbhebhe, No. 17 above, wrote in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Without further ado I’m pleased to announce my commitment to…

THE University of Illinois; with a plan to get my Masters (sic) in Strategic Brand Communications.”

A former 4-star recruit in the class of 2016 out of Suwanee, Ga., Imatorbehbhe redshirted in his first year on campus, then caught just two passes in his two seasons on the active roster, with his 2018 season slowed by an ankle injury.

Imatorbehbhe will have two seasons to play immediately for the Illini.