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Yahoo report: Tago’s targeting call in USC game overruled by “third party”

Tago’s hit on USC quarterback JT Daniels was ruled targeting by the officials on site but the conference’s senior vice president of business affairs thought differently.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

In the Washington State Cougars’ game against the USC Trojans, we all know about the missed targeting penalty Porter Gustin laid on Gardner Minshew II. Largely forgotten though is the late hit from Logan Tago on USC quarterback JT Daniels to end the third quarter; a hit that looked like it could targeting and was reviewed but ultimately, Tago was not thrown out. However, according to a new report from Yahoo Sports, the person who overturned the call was not a Pac-12 referee or replay official: it was the conference’s senior vice president for business affairs Woodie Dixon.

According to Yahoo’s report, replay officials at the Coliseum and at conference headquarters agreed that Tago’s hit constituted targeting. Dixon, who is not a referee, reportedly called into the replay officials to tell them he did not believe Tago targeted Daniels while they were in the process of making the determination. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott denied that a “third party” made the decision but said Dixon is well versed in what constitutes targeting, telling Yahoo instead, “The misperception that in this case, the ultimate decision from the command center was made by someone other than the instant replay supervisor is a concern.”

Not only was the penalty overturned on Tago’s hit, the conference didn’t even bother reviewing a more egregious and dangerous play late in the fourth from a player who had just been suspended for the same offense:

Whether you agree that Tago’s hit on Daniels was targeting or not, allowing (and I’m all caps-ing this for emphasis) the SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR BUSINESS AFFAIRS to have any influence over any call in a game, right or wrong, is not good. Dixon is not only not a trained official, but he’s not in charge of the officials in any way, shape or form. Why he even felt the need to call and make his voice heard on this is baffling at best.

Perhaps the most befuddling piece of the report is nearly all the way at the bottom, where the paperwork obtained by Yahoo shows a review of the process shows the grader for officials believes the review was “correctly handled”. Again, regardless of whether the hit was targeting or not, it objectively was not handled correctly.

Besides the additional blemish on Pac-12 referees, which have a nationwide reputation for their ineptitude, the conference itself will take a rightful beating for this. Not only were two targeting penalties handled incorrectly in a span of one hour in one game, their own review process can’t even find the fault it should have in the first one. If you’re going to take things like player safety seriously, or at least profess to, you can’t have this many mistakes. You especially can’t let a conference higher up have any influence over the decisions of the people paid to make decisions he has no expertise in.

It’s another bad look in what seems like years worth of them for conference commissioner Larry Scott and yet another embarrassment for the Pac-12.