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Pac-12 Media Days day one notebook

Here's a sampling of what we learned during the first half of Pac-12 Media Days:

-- The man tasked with turning the Pac-12 into an international enterprise ticked off the reforms the conference will undertake this season to make it a safer, fairer and more profitable place for its member schools to play football games.

Of course the most pressing development, for DirecTV subscribers, is going to take awhile.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the media assembled at Warner Bros. Studios for Pac-12 Media Days that he is "delighted" that Pac-12 Networks partner AT&T has acquired satellite giant DirecTV and is confident that bringing Pac-12 programming to its current subscribers will be a priority for the cable monolith. He just didn't say when.

For now, the conference is celebrating its 100-year anniversary by addressing fan concerns about player safety and officiating, and expanding the conference's footprint beyond the west coast.

As an example Scott cited the conference's hire of David Coleman, a former NFL director of officiating, to serve as the Pac-12's vice president of officiating and his hope that Coleman's emphasis on offseason training will help a group of officials that has lately been perceived by fans and media to be heavy-handed and frequently incorrect.

Washington State fans will likely remember a pass interference that was not called against Oregon and a touchdown that was not called against California as instances this past season when the officials potentially impacted the outcomes of games directly.

The conference is apparently going to make the officials more accountable to the crowd, as well.

"For the first time this year, with the help of new technology, fans in our stadiums will watch replay reviews on the video board as our officiating crews are reviewing the plays in their booth," Scott said.

No pressure, friends.

Among the Pac-12's player safety reforms are the addition of spotters to identify concussions at games and a yearly $3.5 million spent researching head injuries, mental illnesses and other apparent side effects of playing a high-impact sport.

Furthermore, 2015 will mark the first year the conference increases scholarship aid to reflect the full cost of attendance, and the Pac-12 is guaranteeing four-year scholarships for athletes. Players that leave school early to pursue professional careers will receive financial assistance if they return to complete their undergraduate degrees.

"We've also made progress in ensuring student-athletes who are injured while playing sports get the medical care they deserve even after they've left school," Scott added.

Now, if only Scott would do something about those night games.

-- The decision was far from unanimous, but the Pac-12 media's selection of USC as the conference's preseason favorite end's a half decade of dominance by Oregon, which was placed first in the preseason media poll in four of the past five years.

The media's darling has gone on to win the conference championships in 12 of the last 15 years.

Only 21 of 45 voters picked USC to win the Pac-12 championship game, but 32 of those voters chose a team from the Pac-12 South. The Trojans' selection marks a perceived shift in power from the conference's northern division to its southern one.

Four of the six teams in the Pac-12 South are ranked in the Amway Coaches Poll, with only UO and Stanford representing the Pac-12 North. Granted, that poll places the Ducks ahead of the Trojans.

The southern teams appear to be in better stages of program development, as well, averaging 2 1/3 more returning starters per team than their northern counterparts. Six of the Pac-12's nine returning quarterbacks that started games last season play in the south

-- Chris Petersen helped Boise State become the most dominant modern mid-major football program, coaching the Broncos to a 92-12 record and two BCS bowl wins. Then, he left for Washington.

He will begin his second season by leading the Huskies to Boise to face off against players he largely recruited and a coaching staff consisting primarily of guys that used to answer to him.

The Huskies are currently double-digit underdogs in that game, surely to the never-ending delight of fans that inevitably feel spurned when a coach takes a bigger payday elsewhere.

So, forgive Petersen if he's a bit sheepish about the impending reunion.

"If I had any inkling whatsoever that I might be sitting here (when the game was scheduled), that would be the last team out of 128 division, whatever it is, teams (I would want to play)," Petersen said. "So, you know, just us being tied into that staff over there that are all good friends of ours, we recruited a lot of those kids. Makes it awkward."

Petersen's current players will face a similar situation on Thursday, Oct. 8 when they travel to USC to face former UW coach Steve Sarkisian for the first time since he left the program prior to the team's 2013 bowl game.



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