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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Grip on Sports: The Pac-12 suffers another officiating black eye, and this one it caused itself

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws under pressure during the second half of a college football game on Friday, September 21, 2018, at LA Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif. USC won the game 39-36. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The Pac-12 has a football officiating problem. It’s not just one of perception, but a true officiating problem. And the cracks are beginning to show. Publicly. Read on.


• Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel got his hands on the replay official’s internal report from Washington State’s game at USC. Included in the report was a scathing criticism of “a third party,” who overruled a targeting call made by replay official Gary McNanna and agreed with by the conference’s replay command center.

No, it wasn’t the targeting call, the uncalled penalty when Porter Gustin nailed Gardner Minshew. It was from earlier in the game, when Logan Tago hit USC quarterback JT Daniels, who had taken a knee after fumbling a snap.

Both plays were obvious targeting, but only the Tago play was reviewed. And, even though the replay official felt it was targeting, he was overruled.

And therein lies the problem.

Thamel’s story delves into the mechanics of the decision. It contains Larry Scott’s denials of outside interference, saying once again there was a misunderstanding. The story adds context from other conferences. And it includes comments from former officials, who find the whole episode disturbing.

It certainly is.

But it is also illuminating. And it may answer the question why Gustin’s hit wasn’t reviewed.

Though McNanna did not talk to Thamel, it isn’t hard to posit he didn’t review the Gustin hit because he was either frustrated his earlier ruling was overturned or he felt a precedent had been set and, even if he assessed a targeting penalty, it would be overturned.

Either way, both calls should have been called targeting. Neither were. Both players were put at huge risk.

• One other thing. Though Tago’s hit wasn’t ruled to be targeting, it was called roughing the passer. The officials on the field assessed the 15-yard penalty.

Gustin’s hit? It wasn’t penalized at all. And a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty would have put the Cougars in an advantageous position to win a game they ultimately lost.

In Thamel’s story, there is this quote from Mike Pereira on Gustin’s hit: “It’s one of the more obvious cases of targeting you can have. If you showed 99 college officials that play, 99 would say it was targeting.”

• Tex Winter died yesterday. You probably remember him as Phil Jackson’s assistant with the Chicago Bulls, the guy who invented the Triangle offense.

I remember him as Long Beach State’s head coach. And a truth teller.

At a media luncheon one day in Southern California, Winter told us he had just committed an NCAA violation. And he was happy to do it.

Craig Hodges, who would end up playing for the Bulls, was attending Long Beach. He had grown up in Chicago. His mom, a single parent, still lived there.

Hodges was living in the Long Beach dorms. They closed for Christmas. He couldn’t afford to fly home. So Winter and his wife opened their home to him for the break. At the time, that was a violation.

It was a stupid rule in a rulebook full of them.

Winter hated the stupidity of it. He left Long Beach State not long after and went to the NBA – where the only dumb rules have to do with the game.


WSU: It’s a bye week, but that doesn’t mean Theo Lawson still isn’t picking the Pac-12 games. He’s still to the plus side, even against the spread. … The conference’s basketball media day for the women was held yesterday. The Cougars aren’t among the favorites.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Jon Wilner comments on Thamel’s story. … The Oregonian has a story on coaches’ salaries. … The game in Eugene on Saturday is the best the conference has to offer. The Washington offense will face the improved Oregon defense while the Huskies defense knows it will have its hands full with the Ducks and Justin Herbert. … Oregon State has a star at running back. … Stanford is trying to get more out of its offense. Arizona State just hopes its two best offensve weapons can play. … Colorado has discovered another running back. USC has to control him if they want to come out on top in a must-win game. … UCLA is getting great play from an offensive lineman from the Bay Area. … Utah says it is ready if Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate decides to run more. … In basketball, the news from New York yesterday should, on its face, put Arizona on probation. And other schools.

Gonzaga: It’s still early, but Jim Meehan has some thoughts on the Zags after the Kraziness in the Kennel.

EWU: When the Eagles meet Weber State, it will match strength vs. strength. … Around the Big Sky, we should find out this week if Idaho State is for real as they play 14th-ranked UC Davis. … Montana will put a less-experience offensive line on the field this week. … Southern Utah is still looking for the elusive first win. … Portland State will try to make in two consecutive wins. A long field goal gave the Vikings a win in Missoula.

Preps: What an interesting Thursday morning. There are stories from football – Steve Christilaw looks at Lewis and Clark’s turning point while Sam Adams and Dave Nichols pick the local games – and volleyball – Dave’s piece on Lewis and Clark – along with soccer – Justin Reed covers another great season for Central Valley.

Powerlifting: There is a big national event in Spokane this weekend. Terrence Vent previews the competition.

Seahawks: The Hawks are on the way to London. Know anyone who is going? I do. Actually a couple of folks. … Pete Carroll says Rashaad Penny is frustrated. That’s good isn’t it? So is the running game. … Marshawn Lynch was frustrated too. … The Hawks have injuries.

Mariners: Dee Gordon didn’t have the season he wanted. Nor did the Mariners.


• The hurricane caused a disruption in our plans today. But the silver lining was I had time to put together this column. And the story we focused on to start was well worth it. Until later …