In the aftermath of the 2018 scandal in which Woodie Dixon intervened in the replay-review process, an outside agency will review Pac-12 officiating at the behest of the conference's athletic directors.
The Pac-12 has hired an outside agency to conduct an independent review of its football officiating, a vital step toward restoring credibility in the aftermath of the 2018 scandal in which an untrained official participated in the replay-review process.
The outside agency, Sibson Consulting, is a national firm that has reviewed officiating programs in the NBA and NFL.
Sibson is expected to begin work as soon as next week, according to the Pac-12, with the start of training camp as the targeting completion date. A summary will be made available to the public upon completion.
The move comes at the behest of Pac-12 athletic directors, including Arizona State’s Ray Anderson, who leads a working group focused on officiating.
“This is something the ADs want done,’’ Anderson told the Hotline on Friday.
“I applaud (commissioner Larry Scott) and the conference office for accepting, ‘You guys are right. We’ve got to do it. Now, let’s go.’’’
Anderson is the right athletic director to run point on the process. He oversaw NFL officiating during eight years as the league’s executive vice president for football operations.
In fact, Anderson hired Sibson to review the NFL’s officiating program during his first year on the job.
Anderson said the Pac-12 athletic directors unanimously supported using an independent agency to conduct the review and indicated the same process could occur across all sports, including men’s basketball.
“If you bring in objective eyes to look at the situation,’’ he said, “you get the opportunity to better yourselves, study other methods, best practices, and everyone understands, ‘You’re being held accountable.’
“We need to communicate to our fans and followers that we’re trying to be the best we can be.”
The football coaches, who will participate in Sibson’s review, were informed of the project today.
Washington State’s Mike Leach, whose team was involved in two of the most controversial plays of the season, declined to comment on the independent review and cited conference policy that prohibits coaches from publicly discussing officiating matters.
This isn’t the first time the Pac-12 has used an outside entity to review football officiating procedures. It did the same in 2011, with former NFL official Mike Pereira leading the process.
However, the Sibson review comes at a critical time. The conference suffered a devastating blow when a Yahoo report in early October revealed that general counsel Woodie Dixon had influenced the replay-review process during the USC-Washington State game.
The crisis was arguably the worst of Scott’s tenure given that he signed off on the process that allowed an untrained official to participate in replay reviews.
The news undercut the credibility of the conference’s officiating and, as a result, the integrity of Pac-12 football at large.
Two weeks later, the Pac-12 announced it would implement a clearly-defined protocol for the replay-review process and develop a comprehensive manual for all aspect of instant-replay officiating.
The athletic directors issued a joint statement endorsing the steps, but there was no mention of an independent review of the entire process.
“(The Pac-12) has to be hyper-aggressive and hyper-vigilant,” strategic communications expert Glenn Bunting told the Hotline in November. “What are they doing to ensure this doesn’t happen again? … You want to hear a chorus of independent voices say, ‘They have enacted reforms that give us confidence this won’t happen again.’’’
According to Anderson, athletic directors and conference officials had previously discussed an outside review of officiating. But the October scandal was “a stern reminder that we could wait no longer for our own good and our own credibility,” he said.
In addition to Anderson, the group of athletic directors focused on officiating features Oregon’s Rob Mullens, Oregon State’s Scott Barnes and Colorado’s Rick George.
The Sibson review will focus on every aspect of officiating, from recruitment and training to evaluating, grading and incentivizing.
The replay process will also be examined fully.
Current Pac-12 officials and supervisors will be interviewed, along with head coaches and athletic directors.
Everything will be compared to processes in other conferences.
“It will be an exhaustive analysis,’’ Anderson said.