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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.

LaDainian Tomlinson creates endowment fund for TCU student-athletes

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One of the most famous players in TCU football history is giving back to his alma mater in a big way. LaDainian Tomlinson, former TCU running back, College Football and Pro Football Hall of Famer, has teamed up with TCU to roll out the Tomlinson Student-Athlete Development Endowment Fund to benefit student-athletes at TCU across all 21 sponsored sports.

“LaDainian Tomlinson epitomizes the values we hold dear to TCU and we could not be more proud to strengthen our relationship with him and his team in this joint venture,” TCU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Jeremiah Donati said in a released statement. “We both understand how critically important student-athlete development programming can be in positively shaping the lives of young men and women long after their athletic careers are over.”

“Since retirement, I have been working with my team to find the very best opportunities to serve,” Tomlinson said in a released statement. “One of the greatest opportunities afforded me is certainly being a Trustee. As I’m already engaged in year-round leadership development in other sectors, we are in perfect alignment with TCU’s student-athlete development programs and ultimately support TCU’s Lead On initiative. I look forward to our teams working closely to help build elite citizens year-round. We have to train these young leaders how to do what we are asking them to do. Leadership is developed year-round, not in retreats or semesters. We have the opportunity to lead the nation, and I intend to help ensure we do just that through this partnership.”

According to TCU, the fund will collect funds through private donations and go toward helping to support TCU student-athletes in preparing them for life and careers after graduating from the university. In short, Tomlinson is leading the charge to help make sure a TCU student-athlete has a successful path to a career after playing their last games for the university. For a program that has continued to grow as TCU has from the days of playing in the WAC, Conference USA, and the Mountain West Conference and now in the Big 12, this is a noble effort to help those who suit up in a TCU sports uniform that continue to be a part of the growing program.

It’s always cool seeing star players find ways to give back to their universities. TCU has certainly grown as a program since Tomlinson last took a handoff for the Horned Frogs in the WAC in 2000. The two-time WAC Offensive Player of the Year has wasted no time in cementing his spot in the TCU family since his departure for a hall of fame NFL career by serving on the TCU board of trustees.

LSU to approve Ed Orgeron’s contract extension and raise this week

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Coming off his best season as a head coach, Ed Orgeron will officially get a nice new raise from LSU this year. According to a report from The Advocate, citing information gathered from the agenda for an upcoming board meeting, Orgeron is set to officially receive a two-year extension with a $4 million contract.

The new contract would extend Orgeron through the 2023 season and increase his buyout price tag to $10 million this year, with a reduction in buyout cost of $250,000 each month until it drops to $4 million in 2021.

Naturally, the new contract will come with plenty of incentives for Orgeron for various milestones and achievements during any season. The contracts for new assistant coaches will also be on the agenda for the board. It is expected the board will approve all football contracts on the agenda without hassle. These votes are merely formalities in many cases, including this one for LSU.

According to a database of coaching salaries compiled by USA Today last year, Orgeron was paid $3.5 million by LSU, which ranked him 36th among coaches active last season and 10th among SEC coaches. After coming off his third year as head coach of the program and with a contract that was set to expire in 2021, the time to work out a new deal feels about right for LSU and Orgeron. Tacking on two more years now provides job security and allows Orgeron and his staff to sell recruits on the commitment the program has in Orgeron moving forward for the bulk of their college football career in the years to come.

Since taking over as head coach following Les Miles, Orgeron has a record of 25-9 in the past three seasons in Baton Rouge. That is highlighted by a 2-1 bowl record that includes last season’s Fiesta Bowl victory over UCF. It is easily Orgeron’s best run as ahead coach in his career, which includes a 10-25 mark at Ole Miss and a brief 6-2 stint at USC before he left the program after learning he had no chance to become the next head coach of the Trojans.

Michigan DL Reuben Jones announces plan to transfer from Wolverines

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Michigan senior defensive lineman Reuben Jones will play out the final year of his eligibility someplace other than Ann Arbor. On Monday, Jones announced he will move on from the Wolverines as a graduate transfer after the spring semester wraps up.

“After this semester, I will be graduating and also leaving the University of Michigan while becoming the best me on and off the field,” Jones said in a statement shared on his Twitter account Monday afternoon.

Jones appeared in four games for the Wolverines in 2018. The former three-star recruit in Michigan’s Class of 2015 has only played in two seasons and continues to be buried on the depth chart. As a graduate transfer, however, he will have the opportunity to play immediately this fall for any college football program that welcomes him. It will be the final year of his eligibility, however, so he will certainly be hoping to find a place that can afford to give him more of a crack at a meaningful role as he closes out his college football career.

Players-skipping-bowl-games trend hits college basketball

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In just two years, players skipping minor bowl games has become an accepted practice in college football. In part, the tradition, for lack of a better word, has now reached a point where future first-round picks are now announcing that, yes, they will play in their team’s New Year’s Six game before ultimately turning pro.

And now it’s spread to basketball.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson on Monday revealed Hogs small forward Daniel Gafford will skip his team’s bid in the NIT to prepare for this summer’s NBA draft.

A sophomore from El Dorado, Ark., Gafford averaged 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds in just under 29 minutes per game this season. He’s viewed as a fringe first-round pick, and, clearly, he thinks getting a jumpstart on the Combine process will help him secure the guaranteed contract that comes with such a selection.

This is the second trend to jump from college football to basketball in recent years. Following the relative success of ESPN’s Tuesday night College Football Playoff ranking shows, the NCAA’s started revealing its top-16 seeds for the men’s and women’s tournaments in-season recently as well.