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Targeting rule controversy addressed by Pac-12 commissioner

Larry Scott, Pac-12 Commissioner, speaks during NCAA college basketball Pac-12 media day in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The Pac-12 Conference Commissioner, Larry Scott, has publicly come out addressing a report by Yahoo Sports that claims a controversial targeting call was overruled during Washington State vs. USC on Sept. 21.

While addressing the media regarding the report, Scott emphasized the procedural oversight when designing the full-time officiating command center, which is supposed to oversee decisions in replay booths across all the stadiums within the conference.

“In the case of officiating [last] week, we clearly made mistakes in our procedures and you have to acknowledge those things will happen from time to time,” Scott said.

Scott also spoke about the created perception under the current system.

“Our head of officiating and head of football work for the conference and what we found here is, there’s a perception that they could have a conflict of interest and that’s where I think we designed it poorly,” Scott says.

“You never like to see controversy and complacency,” Scott said. “There are going to be issues that arise with all of the sports that we deal with, all of the issues that we deal with, I think it goes with the territory.”

Scott was also quick to point out that he realized the error needed to be fixed immediately for the overall integrity of the game.

“Make a commitment to the principles that are most important to you. In this case, the principles that are of most importance to the Pac-12 are the highest level of integrity, especially when it comes to something like officiating, and student-athlete welfare,” Scott said.

Is the targeting rule being downplayed?

Upon hearing the commissioner, former NFL quarterback and host of the Helmets Off podcast Scott Mitchell was shocked at how the whole situation was being downplayed.

“There was a recent call where Porter Gustin hit the quarterback from Washington State in the back of the head, and you look at it and by the definition of the rule, this is clearly targeting,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell went on to question not only the referees but the administration within the Pac-12 itself.

“Normally you’re a fan and you’re biased and you think the ref got it wrong anyways, and then, all of a sudden, you go, well maybe the ref agrees with you and the officials don’t, the administration doesn’t,” Mitchell said.

The temptation behind-the-scenes

Simply put, procedures weren’t implemented properly and the commissioner has already begun to repair the issue but the potential behind the problem should not be taken lightly.

“It puts the Pac-12 in a very precarious position to cheat,” Mitchell said. “There is a ridiculous amount of money that is given out to teams that go to bowl games, and the larger bowl games, of course, producing the largest amount of revenue.”

According to Forbes, each team in the Pac-12 that participated in the post-season earned at least $300,000, and an additional $4 million was awarded to both USC and Washington for appearing in their respective bowl games.

“The Pac-12 wants as many teams as they possibly can in the playoffs, in bowl games, in the biggest bowl games they could possibly be in, because it’s millions and millions of dollars in revenue to the conference,” Scott said. “So, when a call comes in, ‘oh, is it against Washington? That didn’t happen.’ I mean, that’s the potential of this.”

The most important aspect when addressing the overall issue is player-safety and if not addressed properly, Mitchell believes there could more people to deal with than just referees and players.

“The next concern for me is player-safety because that’s what this is all about, it’s protecting players from being injured,” Mitchell said. “All of a sudden you go, ‘oh, that wasn’t targeting,’ and that player ends up in the hospital and all I see is a huge lawsuit.”

More to the story

To hear the whole segment from the Helmets Off podcast with Scott Mitchell, you can download and subscribe to the podcast here or listen below.