According to internal documents obtained by Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, a Pac-12 executive who is not a trained official put his thumb on the scale and personally overruled what should have been a targeting penalty. On the final play of the third quarter of Washington State’s Sep. 21 loss to USC, WSU linebacker Logan Tago lowered his head to hit USC quarterback JT Daniels. It was an obvious instance of targeting. In-stadium replay officials and replay officials in the Pac-12’s command center both apparently decided it was targeting, which meant that Tago should have been ejected from the game.
However, Thamel reports that Woodie Dixon, Pac-12 general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs, personally ruled that it was not targeting. Dixon has a role in football operations for the conference, though he is not a formally trained official, and is not deputized to make calls on replay reviews:
Dixon telephoned in his opinion that the play wasn’t targeting, sources said. According to the report, his opinion overruled both the trained officials in the stadium replay booth and in the league’s command center.
ESPN announcer Greg McElroy said in the booth that he was “shocked that targeting wasn’t called. Here’s what the replay report says about the call:
“Both the replay booth and the command center agreed this was a targeting foul, but unfortunately a third party did not agree so the targeting was removed and we went with the ruling on the field of [roughing the passer] with no targeting. This didn’t play well on TV. Reversed my stoppage for [targeting] to not [targeting].”
Also, this was not the game’s only horrendous targeting penalty. The following hit was not even reviewed.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott initially denied that any wrongdoing took place, though several officiating experts who spoke to Yahoo expressed concern about the precedent being set, as well as the danger of creating the perception of favoritism.
Scott spoke about the report today, calling Dixon’s involvement a “mistake.” Dixon, who apparently thought he was just offering an opinion and not dictating a decision, will no longer be involved in the replay process anymore. Scott announced the “most significant, strong, response I can imagine” in response to the scandal, which is that people in conference leadership positions will no longer be involved in replay decision making. I’m not sure why that was ever the case in the first place.