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The Pac-12 hires Merton Hanks and hopefully solves its Woodie Dixon problem

Let’s hope this works out.

Pac-12 Championship Game - Oregon v Utah Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Good morning Coug fans, and good morning to those beginning their final weekend before going back to school, virtually. Stay safe out there. With little to go on in the world of WSU sports headlines, I thought we’d take a step back and look at a recent move the conference made that could, possibly, maybe, hopefully improve the conference’s standing in the eyes of the public.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott recently hired former NFL standout Merton Hanks to oversee football—officially his title is senior associate commissioner for football operations, a new position—and his job duties include scheduling and officiating, among other things. Those two items are notable because the Pac-12 has been criticized for them in the past, especially its officiating.

While Hanks’ job title is different from Woodie Dixon’s old role, he is essentially replacing Dixon. This is obviously notable for Coug fans, in case you forgot the Mike Leach-Woodie Dixon saga of 2018. I still chuckle at the first mention of Dixon’s name—when reporters asked Leach about the USC officiating debacle and Leach, not wanting to get fined, told reporters they need to talk to Woodie Dixon, and everybody was like, “Who??” We all soon found out.

Hanks doesn’t have an easy job ahead of him, and hopefully he’s the right guy. He comes to the Pac-12 from Conference USA, where he was working in football operations. Somehow, the conference realized it needed someone with football brains. Take it away, John Canzano:

The Pac-12 has had a peculiar problem in recent years. It has an inability to accurately see its flaws and act to correct them. When it came to football, the conference operated as if it were trying to cross the street in rush hour while blindfolded. Worse yet, it appeared to think there was nothing wrong with that.

Last summer, at Pac-12 media day in Los Angeles, I lamented in a column that the conference didn’t have competent football intelligence in the league office. The conference executives didn’t seem to think anything was wrong and was unwilling to do a deep self-examination. That lack of self awareness has been a killer over the years.

After writing that column, I heard from four of the conference’s 12 coaches, who confided that it was a long-standing source of frustration. One pointed to scheduling decisions. Another to officiating and procedures that were implemented without consulting conference coaches.

Let’s hope this hire pans out.


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