* The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published each Monday-Wednesday-Friday during the college sports season (and twice-a-week in the summer). This edition, from Feb. 25, has been made available in archived form …
As the Hotline reported Friday afternoon, the Pac-12 is hiring an outside agency to conduct an independent review of its football officiating. Without question, it’s the best move the conference has made in the past 18 months — since the downward spiral on and off the field began.
(If you’re looking for a starting point, consider late September ’17, with the news that USC and Arizona were implicated in the basketball corruption case).
A thorough examination of the football officiating process by an independent entity, Sibson Consulting, is the essential first step toward restoring credibility to a system that suffered a devastating blow last fall with the replay-review scandal.
Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson ran point on the committee of athletic directors that pushed for the outside review. During a conversation Friday afternoon, Anderson explained that the process might not be contained to football.
The conference is considering Sibson — or a similar entity — for a deep dive into men’s basketball officiating, and potentially other sports, as well. (Sibson has worked with the NBA and NFL.)
“We’re always thinking about how we can get better,” he said. “How we can upgrade the overall officiating in the conference in football, in basketball, across all sports.”
A review of men’s basketball cannot come soon enough. Frankly, it should start as soon as the football review is completed this summer.
(Commissioner Larry Scott likes to deliver news during his opening remarks at Pac-12 football media day in late July. An announcement that Sibson is taking a deep dive into basketball officiating would be well-received.)
While watching the current season unfold … witnessing the debacle that was Arizona State-Utah … seeing UCLA shoot 28 free throws to Oregon State’s three … and there are plenty of other examples … two things come to mind:
1. Officiating is very, very difficult.
2. The Pac-12 can do better, much better — in both major sports — and it must take whatever steps are necessary to get better.
Clearly, the athletic directors agree.
That’s an encouraging start. — Jon Wilner
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• Our two-part preview of spring practice concluded late last week with a look at the key issues in the North division. Much as I tried, it’s difficult to avoid focusing on the quarterback situations with four of the six programs.
• The latest Hotline podcast ventured into legal territory. In a lengthy conversation, Bay Area-based economist Andy Schwarz assessed the impact the high-profile Alston case could have on the NCAA’s version of amateurism. Judge Claudia Wilken could rule at any moment, and Schwarz walked us through the potential outcomes.
• As mentioned above, the officiating news broke Friday afternoon:
• ‘Saturday Night Five’ was a mix of basketball and football commentary. Remove the top (Washington) and bottom (WSU and Cal) teams from the standings, and what remains is a jumbled mess of mediocrity. But there’s loads of intrigue in the race for the opening-round bye in the conference tournament.
• Brian Bennett’s latest column for the Hotline focuses on a particular aspect of this upside-down season: The lack of dominance by home teams (or if you prefer: the surprising success of road teams).
• ICYMI: The Wednesday edition of the newsletter addressed the $400+ million question: If the conference sells an equity stake in its media rights in exchange for up-front cash, how would the windfall be used? Previous editions of the newsletter are available in archived form using the following hashtag;
Why we need your support: Like so many other providers of local journalism across the country, the Hotline’s parent website, mercurynews.com, recently moved to a subscription model. A few Hotline stories will remain free each month (as will this newsletter), but for access to all content, you’ll need to subscribe at a rate of just 12 cents per day for 12 months. And thanks for your loyalty.
Perspective on the conference from beyond its borders …
• Times are so tough on the court and on the field for the conference that even the data-driven political website, FiveThirtyEight, has addressed the topic. The headline to an analysis published on Friday — ‘The Pac-12 Is In Shambles‘ — pretty much says it all … Oh, and Axios weighed in, too … Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated explains how Cal just might be the worst major conference team of the 21st century.
(Note: The Hotline newsletter includes links to sites that could require a subscription once the number of free views has been reached.)
• No surprise to anyone who watched him regularly: Washington cornerback Byron Murphy is generating buzz ahead of the NFL combine.
• Speaking of the combine: Utah is sending six, a reminder that few teams develop their personnel as consistently well as the Utes.
• The group of onlookers for Oregon State’s spring game in late April is expected to include the son of a famous alum: 4-star recruit Chad Johnson Jr.
• First-year Colorado coach Mel Tucker is adding quality control coaches to his staff.
• This is Arizona State’s final week — the final week — of spring practice. Here’s the latest from Tempe, where competition has spiked.
• Cal opens spring practice today. Here’s a look at the top storylines.
• Jaelan Phillips, the former 5-star recruit who spent two injury-plagued seasons at UCLA, isn’t retiring for health reasons, after all. He’s transferring to Miami.
Select men’s basketball games included (all times Pacific).
Feb. 25: Cal starts spring practiceFeb. 26 – March 4: NFL Scouting CombineFeb. 28: USC at UCLA (6 p.m., ESPN)Feb. 28: ASU spring game (6 p.m., Pac-12 Arizona)March 13-16: Pac-12 tournament (Las Vegas)March 17: Selection Sunday
• What was rumored has become reality: Washington State coach Mike Leach will teach a five-class seminar this spring on football strategy and insurgent warfare (seriously). It won’t count for credit but is guaranteed to be popular. And the final lecture will be live-streamed.
• Arizona unveiled its new indoor facility over the weekend. The $16.5 million Cole and Jeanne Davis Center will provide space for fan and donor functions and give Kevin Sumlin a temperature-controlled environment for practice, plus a little gem to dangle for recruits. “This is a piece of the puzzle that we needed,” athletic director Dave Heeke said.
(A section devoted to content on the basketball scandal.)
• Arizona coach Sean Miller will be subpoenaed in the upcoming federal trial of would-be agent Christian Dawkins, according to a Yahoo report this morning. (LSU’s Will Wade will be subpoenaed, as well.) Per Yahoo: “It raises thorny questions for the public universities that employ them, as both the optics of potentially testifying in federal court about basketball recruiting and potential answers that could be given under oath will be a likely cause of consternation for Arizona and LSU administrators.”
• Point guard Jaylen Hands led UCLA past Oregon with a team-high 27 points — all of them in the second half. (It was a Toby Bailey-esque performance.)
• “Time for (Oregon coach Dana) Altman to do some soul searching,” writes the Oregonian’s John Canzano.
• MVP of the first-place Huskies? That’s a tough one. And here’s an in-depth look at Washington’s improved perimeter shooting, which has been so vital to its success — and will be crucial in the NCAAs.
• Colorado guard McKinley Wright has been one of the top players in the conference despite constant pain from a series of issues with his left shoulder.
• Drawing conclusions from Arizona’s sweep of the Bay Area schools, such as: 18-15 seems like a reasonable record.
• Arizona State currently rates as an 11 seed, according to CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm. Note: The Sun Devils finish the season with three road games: the Oregon schools and Arizona.
Content devoted to Pac-12 Olympic sports.
• Oregon’s amazing Sabrina Ionescu collected another Division I record: Most triple-doubles in a single season.
• Utah’s Dre’Una Edwards, one of the top rookies in the conference, injured her knee Friday night and it “didn’t look good.”
• Six teams are in but Oregon’s out (as a No. 1 seed) in ESPN’s latest bracketology. And Utah’s in the First Four Out group.
What’s coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:
• Over the next 72 hours, the Hotline is planning to produce a new podcast, with CBS Sports columnist Dennis Dodd, plus the latest basketball power ratings and a preview of the NFL combine.
• Also in the works: A big-picture look at football that could resonate across multiple time zones.
The next newsletter is scheduled for Wednesday. Like it? Please forward this email to friends (sign up here). If you don’t, or have other feedback, let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.