Even rivals can agree on Pac-12 officiating

WITH PAC-12 RIVALRY GAMES coming up, you will be hard-pressed to find much common ground between Cougars and Huskies, Trojans and Bruins, Sun Devils and Wildcats or Beavers and Ducks. Unless of course the subject of Pac-12 officiating comes up.

From Pullman to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City to Eugene, fans in the Pacific-12 unanimously feel that officiating on the West Coast is the worst in the country.

Over the years there have been countless high-profile, controversial calls with major impacts on critical games. Flags fly at a higher rate and Pac-12 referees never miss an opportunity for television face time, explaining the infraction or even discussing why a flag wasn't thrown.

One of the lowest points came last month when Tony Corrente, the Pac-12 coordinator of football officiating, resigned for what he called personal and professional reasons. His resignation came just days after a ridiculous taunting penalty on Oregon contributed to Arizona's upset win in Eugene.

Officiating guru Mike Pereira wrote an article criticizing Corrente (who was Pereira's best man at his wedding) for resigning in the middle of the season. Pereira said that Corrente had just about everything he could ask for, everything except moral support from the conference.

Former instant replay supervisor Jim Blackwood is now serving as interim coordinator and the conference will find a permanent coordinator after the season.

The shakeup has not appeared to make much of an impact as Pac-12 officials continue to be a topic of conversation week in and week out.

How bad is it? The best quantitative data we can point to is the number of penalties called on Pac-12 schools compared to other Power Five conference programs.

Here is a breakdown of the average penalties per game and penalty yards per game for teams in the Power Five conferences:

The Pac-12 is by far the most penalized conference, with nearly a full penalty per team more than second place Big 12 and more than two full penalties ahead of the Big Ten. Pac-12 teams have totaled some seven more yards of penalties than Big 12 teams and 19 more yards than Big Ten teams.

That means the average game between two Pac-12 teams will have about 15 flags for 133 yards. The average Big Ten game will have just under 11 flags for 95 yards.

Looking at individual teams, Arizona State is the only Pac-12 team in the top-25 for fewest penalties and penalty yards. But seven Pac-12 teams are in the bottom 25 (out of 128 FBS teams) for most penalties and penalty yards.

In fact, 11 of the Pac-12, all but Arizona State, are in the bottom half of the country for penalties and penalty yards.

Here is the penalty data for each Pac-12 team:

Without question, teams in the Pac-12 are flagged far more often than the rest of the country. The excessive penalties not only impact the flow of the game, but sometimes the outcome of the game as well.

The question is, will commissioner Larry Scott finally take effective action to get the Pac-12 on par with the other major conferences or continue his denial that the officiating isn't a real problem?

It all starts with his conference coordinator of football officiating hire this offseason. But the followup, the hiring of new officials and most importantly, the week-to-week grading of officials, is where it has to happen -- and clearly has not -- for a league that's lost its way when it comes to throwing flags.

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