After targeting review scandal, Scott says ‘I take responsibility’ for conference’s officiating disarray.
SAN FRANCISCO – Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott spent the majority of Thursday’s men’s basketball media day fielding questions about the widespread college basketball corruption scandal that’s snared half of the schools in the conference while simultaneously defending the league’s integrity following a video replay review snafu during a recent football game.
First, the FBI investigation and federal trial that’s implicated notable former Pac-12 stars including Washington’s Markelle Fultz and Utah’s Kyle Kuzma in a pay-for-play scheme.
“I’ve got no reason to believe that there’s a systemic problem,” Scott said referring to alleged recruiting misdeeds by coaches, assistants and players at Arizona, Oregon, UCLA and USC. “Allegations have been made about a lot of schools nationally. We are eager to see what comes out of the trial, what comes out of NCAA investigation, as are our schools.”
At the same podium a year ago, Scott convened a task force to address the “systematic issues” threatening the sport. In March, the task force recommended sweeping changes, including many that were formally adopted by the NCAA in August.
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“At that time, the NCAA called for all schools to conduct self-evaluations and investigations about their programs,” Scott said. “We 100 percent got behind that. I reinforced that with our presidents and chancellors, with our athletics directors, encouraged them to use the opportunity to conduct their own investigations into their programs to ensure compliance.
“Each of our schools did that and each of our schools came back through that process and concluded that they had no evidence of any breaking of rules and assured that, if they did, they would take action.”
Scott spent the latter half of Thursday’s press conference attempting to extinguish another scandal that could permanently stain his Pac-12 tenure.
He accepted blame and admitted “mistakes were made” after a Yahoo! Sports report detailed that the conference’s general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs, Woodie Dixon, influenced a targeting replay review during USC’s win over Washington State on Sept. 21.
The third-quarter play involved USC quarterback J.T. Daniels who was hit hard in the head by WSU linebacker Logan Tago who initiated the contact with his helmet. Roughing the passer was called on the field and the play drew a review for targeting, which if upheld would have ejected Tago from the game.
According to the Yahoo! report, Gary McNanna, who was the replay official in the booth for the game, and the command center in San Francisco agreed on a targeting foul. However, Dixon telephoned into the replay booth with a dissenting opinion and Tago was not given a targeting penalty.
“We’re going to launch a more thorough review of how replay works in our conference,” Scott said. “I’ll have a chance to work with folks internally, with our members, to review policies and procedures regarding football replay review and the role of the command center.
“Secondly, we’re immediately changing procedures so that conference leadership responsible for football and responsible for officiating, while they’ll 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 our replay officials at the stadium, in the command center, and on the field.”
Scott doesn’t plan on punishing Dixon or anyone involved in the incident.
“I’m confident there is no mal-intent or anything like that,” Scott said. “I take responsibility for our policy being what it is ultimately and this ambiguity being there”
Scott also said he’ll talk to Pac-12 coaches and peers around the country to ensure the conference has adopted a replay video policy that is beyond reproach.
“I feel like this is the most significant step I can make now to acknowledge that we made a mistake in allowing the situation to develop, to allowing any shred of concern about integrity or ambiguity, ” Scott said. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to make the most significant change I can make right now to lift any cloud that might exist.”