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Dan Bickley

After latest controversial finish, Pac-12 desperately in need of a makeover

Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards, center, confers with head linesman Bob Day, left, and referee Javarro Edwards in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Colorado Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Pac-12 has been leaking credibility for years. Now the ship is sinking.

The television network is a long-running joke. The officiating is even worse. You rarely find the product on television and can’t trust it when you do. The conference is practically begging for a new commissioner, someone to hit the reset button and chart a different path.

Unfortunately, this is now an ASU problem.

The Sun Devils were victimized by overzealous replay review in a late rally against San Diego State earlier in the season. They suffered from replay blasé in a late rally against Oregon. Both games could’ve featured miracle finishes, taking ASU’s season to another level.

In two huge moments of the season, Frank Darby was (a) nearly decapitated while somehow holding onto the football; and (b) somehow got his foot down in the end zone on a game-tying, two-point conversion at Oregon, fooling everyone in the stadium.

Both passes were ruled incomplete, stealing potential victory from ASU and two moments of glory from Darby. That’s heinous.

There is plenty of blame to go around. In a 31-29 loss to Oregon, Herm Edwards and his staff are guilty of not seizing the moment, failing to recognize that Darby might’ve been inbounds. Edwards could’ve called timeout to help initiate the review process rather than placidly accepting the on-field explanation, as he continued to do in the days after.

Truth is, he might’ve cost his team the game, an error of omission and detachment, the kind of rusty mistake one makes when returning to coaching after all those years.

But that doesn’t absolve the Pac-12. Still shots of Darby’s catch show a clean reception. How could it not be subject to automatic review, when a division championship in a Power Five conference was hanging in the balance?

This is also much bigger than ASU.

Earlier in the season, an untrained Pac-12 executive was allowed to reverse a targeting penalty in a game between Washington State and USC. The interference was corruption or incompetence, and nothing in between. There are other examples, and all of this malfeasance continues without transparency or sincere remorse from the Pac-12 and its lobotomized commissioner, Larry Scott.
It’s a terrible look.

Already, the Pac-12 is hemorrhaging championship contenders in Division I football and men’s basketball. The conference flamed out of the NCAA Tournament last March, following a season tarnished by off-court scandals. Their football teams entered 2018 with a 1-8 record in their previous bowl games, shut out in two of the past three College Football Playoff tournaments.

It’s likely that a one-loss Washington State team won’t get a sniff of this year’s final four, even though the Cougars are the ultimate Cinderella in college football, with the most interesting head coach in the country.

Scott has done nothing to solve either problem. The stalemate with DirecTV continues. So does the increase in night games and games played on short rest, the only way that Scott could negotiate the kind of money his bosses are demanding, given the revenues enjoyed by the SEC and Big Ten.

Financial disparities are body blows that hurt the Pac-12 in many places, especially in the art of championship scheduling. Pac-12 teams simply can’t afford to play one less conference game just to purchase an extra victory against Cupcake U., the failsafe strategy of the title-rich SEC.

It’s might be another lost season, for ASU and the conference.

Maybe Edwards should’ve known better in Eugene, and not so eager to move on to the next play. But these are his rookie mistakes, the kind ASU signed up for when hiring an ESPN analyst who hadn’t worked the college game in decades.

Scott doesn’t have that excuse. His conference has become a bastion of amateur-hour athletics, a conference known for its lack of reach, lack of relevance, delusional self-esteem and an egregious assortment of game-day officials.

The Pac-12 is the worst at too many things, at least in the only college sports that matter to mainstream America. And it’s time for a change. Starting at the top.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier