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Larry Scott addresses Pac-12 officiating, freshman ineligibility and more at spring meetings

52m

PHOENIX -- Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was working his way through a fairly predictable informal news conference when he decided to wake up and ruffle the feathers of the gathered reporters.

The subject was the proliferation of football players taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule, which provides freedom to players who have attained an undergraduate degree to transfer wherever they like for a final year of eligibility. A couple of notable Pac-12 examples of the rule being used this year are Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams transferring to Oregon and California defensive end Brennan Scarlett transferring to Stanford, only the Bears cross-Bay rival.

"It sounded great in theory. ... but I think we still have to look at some of the data," Scott said. "I think we need to look more carefully into these graduate transfers that aren't actually getting a graduate degree. There is not much success rate. It's raising questions."

Scott was speaking for some coaches who were unhappy with how they felt the rule was being exploited. Reporters, taking the side of the athletes, couldn't believe a football player who'd actually earned his degree should be restricted in any way.

The ensuing eruption of harrumphs -- sincere yet quasi-comic in their unanimity -- ended up as the dramatic and emotional high point of Scott's session. While Big 12 coaches and athletic directors were debating the merits of a conference championship game after getting left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff, the Pac-12 meetings didn't produce much controversy or previously unreported news.

Said Scott, "We don't have a lot of news coming out of here."

That didn't mean there weren't any interesting topics.

Most important for the football coaches was the introduction of new, full-time director of officiating David Coleman, who was hired away from the NFL. The conference's previous coordinator of officiating, Tony Corrente, who had a less-than-congenial exit last October, didn't hold a full-time position.

Scott, however, hastened to add that he believes criticism of Pac-12 officiating is overblown and has become mostly a (mis)perception issue due to a few high-profile mistakes.

"I definitely think there was a big perception gap between what gets reported and the reality," he said, adding that conference officials have rated "on par and in many respects better than our peer conferences" in their evaluations.

Other issues of note that Scott covered.

  • Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany recently re-broached the topic of freshman ineligibility. The idea has little to no traction in the Pac-12. Said Scott, "We have not gotten positive reaction in our conference to the idea of freshman ineligibility."

  • While the upcoming move to cost of attendance scholarships has some athletic directors concerned about costs, it's not a major worry, even the notion that some schools might try to game the system to offer up more appealing packages to recruits, something that has coming up among SEC administrators. Said Scott, "We don't share that concern in our conference. There really is no worry amongst our schools that the financial aid office, in determining cost of attendance for all students, is going to take into consideration the desires or wants of a football coach or an athletics department."

  • In terms of a potential early signing period, Scott supports a compromise idea, adding a December date but not one in August, as proposed by others, when a player's senior year performance -- on field and in the classroom -- would not be even half complete. Said Scott, "We've got schools for whom your grades and your first semester of your senior year matter, whether you're going to get in or not."

  • While coaches' participation in satellite football camps is not controversial in the Pac-12, Scott did mention an alternative idea of regional combines. He said, "We did some brainstorming and we're going to try and advance a discussion about going back to collegiate combines, a series of regional combines, as a possible way to alleviate some of the concerns that exist nationally."

  • There also has been some discussion of holding a bowl game in Australia against a Mountain West team as early as 2016, though considerable questions remain on the complicated logistics of putting the game together.

As for the health of the conference longterm, Scott continues to be optimistic, despite the Big Ten and SEC being poised to eclipse the Pac-12 in terms of overall revenue, at least in the near-term. Scott did acknowledge a "fear of the unknown."

"The worry is five years from now, 10 years from now, will there be a significant gap?" Scott said. "We don't believe there will be. In some respects, we're in a uniquely good situation in that we own control and we're going to have a lot of options in terms of what we can do with that down the road. I feel very comfortable with where we are."

That was the theme, from Scott, from the Pac-12 coaches and from the athletic directors.

Said Stanford coach David Shaw as he headed to the airport, "I think all of us have a pretty good idea of where we are right now. We're in a good place right now."