It's not often there is indisputable proof that I am working, but we have some from last night's Pac-12 rules seminar at the Fox studios in Los Angeles. And we have also have some actual items you might be interested in, so read on.
• Last night, I attended (see if you can find me in this picture; OK, I am the guy in the tennis shoes, glasses and white striped shirt) one of the more interesting presentations the Pac-10/12 conference has ever put on, a football rules clinic overseen by by the Pac-12's coordinator of football officiating, Tony Corrente, the consultant who recommended his hiring, Mike Pereira, and the conference's replay coordinator, Dean Blandino. Why was it interesting? For one thing, the level of candor about past Pac-10 officiating. "In reality, it wasn't what the Pac-12 deserved," said Pereira, the NFL's former vice president of officiating and the guy commissioner Larry Scott hired to upgrade the conference's officials. "Was it the worst? No. But it wasn't what the Pac-12 deserved." Such talk is, seemingly, vindication for all of those folks out there who have crabbed about the conference's officiating in the past. Well, Scott is trying to do something about it. "This officiating program will be the model of officiating programs across the country," Pereira said of the changes he and Corrente, a retired Southern California high school history teacher and a current NFL referee, have put in place. The Pac 12 now has 50 on-field officials, all of them from the western part of the country and 18 of them new to the conference. It also has seven supervisors, one for each on-field position, with six of those folks current NFL officials. These changes (and others), Pereira said, puts the emphasis on training and evaluation, something that was underscored with a recent three-day seminar for the officials at Stanford. One thing you can say, if the conference's officiating isn't better this year, it isn't because Scott didn't throw money, time and effort at the problem. .... Blandino, who also worked with the NFL's replay system for years before quitting to start his own company, went over the nuts and bolts of the replay system and explained the changes. Some of the changes: every Pac-12 replay official is now a former on-field official and they will no longer work a certain area. The replay officials will move from stadium to stadium and have received assignments that ensure they do not work the same school in back-to-back weeks. ... There are four people in the replay booth, the one official who makes the decision and three folks to help him work the equipment and communicate with the field. ... As for rule changes, we'll go over them more in a story for tomorrow's paper, but the biggest ones you might have already heard about. Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (for taunting or excessive celebration) are now live-ball penalties, meaning if a flag is thrown for such as a player is headed to the end zone, points could come off the board. Also, the NFL's 10-second runoff for certain penalties at the end of games has found it's way to college, though it's called a 10-second subtraction; blocking below the waist, which will be completely banned sooner or later, has been restricted even more, and end of half and game clock problems can be reviewed by replay, though there are restrictions. We'll have more on this later. ... By the way, Pereira is the guy talking to my right in the photo linked above. ... There is more from last night, including this blog post from Bud Withers of the Times. ... Moving on to today and the main portion of the media event (Jared Karstetter will be here as WSU's player representative), ESPN's Ted Miller starts his countdown of the Pac-12's best with Washington State's Marquess Wilson. ... From Tucson, Ryan Finley offers four things to get excited about. ... There are a couple stories about the Pac-12 in the Los Angeles Times, including one on how the conference stacks up with other conferences. ... More on the Pac-12 TV network from Jon Wilner in San Jose. ... ASU should be picked to be the Pac-12 South favorite. ... Finally, more on Reid Forrest agreeing to a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills. The former WSU punter knows he faces a tough challenge trying to unseat two-time Pro Bowler Brian Moorman, but felt the Bills' offer was the best he received in what he called a crazy day. Forrest said his phone started ringing in the evening and never stopped. After weighing multiple offers, he picked Buffalo. I did point out, however, Forrest chose the only place in the NFL that's consistently colder than Pullman. But, as he said, the Bills do play away games. Forrest expects to sign today and be on his way to the Bills' training camp, which has been at St. John Fisher college near Rochester since 2000.
• That's all for now. More later here and on Twitter (vinceg55). Until then ...