Officially, USC quarterback J.T. Daniels was not ear-holed by a Washington State linebacker on Sept. 21. That means the Pac-12 does not owe a public apology to Daniels or the Trojans because that alleged violation may or may not have occurred.”I did not mean to be commenting whether that call was right or not,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told CBS Sports following the conference’s latest officiating scandal.  You see, to the Pac-12, the issue is not whether Daniels was ding-donged back to the Stone Age by Logan Tago, it was about closing administrative loopholes. The first time Scott read about the Pac-12 general counsel overruling both replay officials and the officiating command center on a targeting call against Tago was when he opened his web browser Thursday morning. Responding to that explosive Yahoo Sports report, the conference quickly closed those administrative loopholes.

That general counsel, Woodie Dixon, shouldn’t have been in the replay command center that night influencing officiating decisions. And he won’t be again, Scott said at a press conference on Thursday. Never mind Dixon having no formal officiating training. The conference won’t say officially there was even a targeting call to be made on the field. This latest snafu emerged in a conference that prides itself on player safety. You shouldn’t have to be told the Pac-12 long ago lost our confidence when it comes to football officiating.”I am concerned because this raises questions about our commitment to player safety and to the integrity of officiating,” Scott said.

Those issues should be written in stone somewhere for every conference. But the Pac-12 can’t even get to the apology stage (publicly, at least) on Thursday because it wouldn’t even say the call had been bungled. Judge for yourself here.”If USC and Coach [Clay] Helton had concerns about that call,” Scott said, “they have the ability to talk to our people about it … but that happens between them.”There has never been more of a need for some sort of minister/CEO of college football, someone with ultimate oversight over the entire sport. It will never happen. These conferences love their autonomy.So no matter how many white papers the Pac-12 releases on player safety, the latest news is that it couldn’t keep its lawyer out of the officiating bunker.

Scott was contrite Thursday, saying, “I’ve come to the conclusion we made mistakes in replay review in the command center. We mixed administrative oversight with real-time replay calls.”And for that, USC and its quarterback deserve an apology. Not only was Daniels’ safety at risk, USC’s ability to win the game may have been affected had he gotten knocked out. Complicating matters, USC linebacker Porter Gustin was not flagged for going helmet-to-helmet with Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew in the same game. The Pac-12 should be beyond ashamed at this point. Scott was right to address the Yahoo report immediately at Pac-12 basketball media day. There was no ambiguity. The conference screwed up.Now he and the league must take the extra step. The college game has enough problems determining what is or is not targeting. That’s troubling enough. In this case, Pac-12 officiating supervisor David Coleman is overseen by Dixon. That’s fine. It’s just that Dixon’s opinion shouldn’t be within a million miles of that replay bunker on game days.

Think about that: A senior vice president of business affairs influenced a targeting call.”He didn’t believe he was making a decision [but] offering a point of view,” Scott said. Tell that to Daniels or Helton or the millions of fans who want the Pac-12 to matter again in football. Instead, the headlines are not about top 10 clashes but the conference hitting rock bottom again. “I hope this is a first step to making clear how important integrity of officiating is,” Scott said.

If this is the first step, it’s clear the Pac-12 has been stumbling for as long as we all thought.

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