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Changes coming to Pac-12 play reviews after interference in targeting call

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott promised immediate changes to football officiating procedures after a damning report by Yahoo! Sports revealed that a “third party” overruled a targeting call in a recent game.

The issue arose in the Washington State-USC game on Sept. 21. Yahoo! Sports obtained an internal replay report that revealed that Woodie Dixon, the Pac-12’s general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs, called in and overruled the replay officials on a play where the Cougars’ Logan Tago initiated helmet-to-helmet contact with Trojans quarterback JT Daniels, who had gone to a knee on the play.

“I want to come to the conclusion that we’ve made mistakes in terms of the procedures involved with replay review in the command center,” Scott said Thursday at Pac-12 Basketball Media Day in San Francisco. “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.

“Moreover, we’ve allowed for ambiguity about who has the final call and who makes the ultimate decisions in reply review. And it’s very important in any reply or rule-making decision that there be clarity about who makes the decisions, and it’s a mistake that we allowed ambiguity about who makes those decisions.

“So effective immediately, we’re doing two things. We’re going to launch a more thorough review of how reply works in our conference. And secondly, we’re immediately changing procedures so that conference leadership responsible for football and responsible for officiating, while they will continue to play their important oversight role in those functions, they will have no involvement in the real-time decision-making behind replay review.

“Those decisions will be solely in the purview of the replay officials at the stadium, in the command center and on the field. That will be immediately implemented in the games coming this weekend.

“I felt it was important to quickly address this issue and not let it linger. … I feel like this is the most significant step I can make to acknowledge we made a mistake, and I feel like this is a change I can make now to lift any concern.

“I wanted an immediate and very clear action in terms of clearing it up.”

Tago’s hit on Daniels wasn’t the most egregious targeting call that was missed in the WSU-USC game. USC’s Porter Gustin struck Cougars QB Gardner Minshew II with a head-to-head blow. The play wasn’t reviewed.

Gustin already had missed the first half of the game because of a targeting disqualification in the second half of USC’s previous game against Texas. Had he been ejected from the WSU game, Gustin would have had to sit out the first half of the USC-Arizona game the following week.

A potential targeting call was overturned in last week’s Cal-Arizona game. Cal’s Deon White blindsided Arizona’s Isaiah Hayes with a hit to the head/neck area but was not ejected. The Pac-12 supervisor in the press box was not pleased with the ruling.

At a minimum, this is unnecessary roughness. To me (and the whole FS1 crew, including Dean Blandino) it was targeting. What’s the point of having those rules – for safety – if you’re not going to enforce them?

— Michael Lev (@MichaelJLev) October 7, 2018

Star staff writer Bruce Pascoe contributed to this report from San Francisco.

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