Pac-12 athletic directors are gathering in the Bay Area this week for their annual fall meetings with conference leadership. The agenda, according to a conference spokesman, includes standard issues pertaining to football and men’s basketball.
The topic of highest interest, however, is anything but typical: The football officiating controversy.
Or to be more precise, the ongoing football officiating controversy.
ThirdPartyGate has sucked all the attention away from the players, coaches and teams for the past two weeks and threatens to smolder through November, swallowing whole the entire Pac-12 season.
I’d guess the athletic directors are none too pleased with general counsel Woodie Dixon, who, according to a Yahoo report, went where he shouldn’t have gone and influenced the replay review process.
I’d also guess the athletic directors are none too pleased that commissioner Larry Scott approved the system that allowed Dixon to be involved in the first place, or that Scott has been unable to change the narrative.
What else should Scott have done, above and beyond removing Dixon from the replay review process?
Well, he could have taken action, in the form of a reprimand, fine, suspension.
He could have gone so far as to strip Dixon of his duties as supervisor of football — only by cleaning house, some might say, can you truly clean the mess.
At the very least, Scott could have asked Dixon to issue a public apology to the conference’s football stakeholders and the schools, which suffer when the brand gets damaged.
Instead, we got the opposite. When asked if Dixon is in good standing, Scott offered a glowing review:
“Woodie’s held in very high regard by our schools, he’s held in very high regard nationally, and by me,” Scott told reporters (2:43 mark) Saturday in the Martin Stadium press box.
“There was a mistake that was made here; there’s no question about that, and we’ve taken corrective action, and we’ve got ongoing discussions about other changes we might make.
“But he’s held in very high regard by our coaches, by our athletics directors, our presidents and many others.”
It appears no action — certainly no public action — against Dixon is forthcoming.
I can’t help but think of the conference fining Arizona coach Sean Miller $25,000 for using obscenities after a technical foul that later turned out to be part of a bounty scheme.
I can’t help but think of the conference fining former Utah athletic director Chris Hill $10,000 for using inappropriate language during a private conversation with the head of basketball officiating.
Or fining Mike Leach $10,000 for accusing Arizona State of stealing signs.
Or fining Mike MacIntyre $10,000 for chasing down an officiating crew after a game and expressing his frustration.
Those were emotion actions and mistakes driven by the heat of competition, and the conference extraction thousands of dollars of flesh from Miller, Hill, Leach and MacIntyre.
And here’s Dixon, who called into the replay center to express an opinion that he should absolutely not express — an opinion that not only influenced the outcome of a game but jeopardized the integrity of the entire football operation — and there’s not so much as an apology.
Even if it was an honest, one-time mistake, which has been Scott’s contention, shouldn’t Dixon be held accountable?
With no public accountability, it creates the impression that conference executives are above the law — that those on Scott’s payroll are held to a different standard than those on the campuses.
The conference office, after all, is supposed to serve the schools. In the Pac-12, it often appears to be the other way around.
How will ThirdPartyGate unfold this week at the AD meetings?
There will be some discussion, for sure — perhaps even some heated discussion — but material steps are unlikely.
Only the presidents/chancellors have the power to demand an apology or force change, and they aren’t scheduled to meet until the middle of next month.
Granted, they have universities to run and 817 problems to solve in the next hour.
But football impacts the entire campus like few other entities — it affects morale and philanthropy and revenue and so much more.
And right now, Pac-12 football is struggling on multiple levels, with the officiating controversy out in front.
Do the presidents and chancellors care one iota? We’ll see next month.
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