New Pac-12 interim coordinator of officiating Mike Pereira has announced a number of changes, including the removal of 11 officials from the field, and the reassignment of a couple of others.
Last Month, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott replaced Dave Cutaia, who had been coordinator of officiating for the last 3 years, with Pereira, who was formerly the NFL's vice president of officiating, and served last season as an on-air NFL rules analyst for FOX. Pereira was originally hired by the conference last October as an officiating consultant.
Cutaia, who was an official for 24 years before, had requested to step down from his coordinator role. Translation: Cutaia requested to be allowed to quit before being fired.
Wednesday, Pereira announced the removal of 11 officials who worked games last year, and the hiring of 16 new officials. The new faces were hired away from the Big 12, Mountain West and WAC to replace those who were dismissed, and one who retired.
Two referees (the "white hat" crew chiefs) were also moved to other positions.
Pereira said his review of officiating made it clear that change was needed in a conference that has earned a reputation for officiating problems and errors in recent seasons.
"I certainly did not think that for a geographic area like the West Coast that can draw from a lot of officials, I certainly didn't think it was at the level that it could be," Pereira said. "I'm not saying it was horrible, but it was not at the level that it deserved to be and that this conference deserves to have."
Scott had previously indicated he wants a "crispness" on the field, and is looking for upgrades in training and the use of technology, and policies developed for accountability and response to controversy.The conference didn't name those that won't be back, but that will become apparent from the box scores once the season starts.
"We felt like these 16 were better than the 11 that did not have their contracts renewed," Pereira said.
The addition of 16 officials will give the new Pac-12 a total of 49, forming seven seven-man crews. An additional crew was needed with the conference expanding from 10 to 12 teams when Colorado and Utah join this fall.
Officials make roughly $1,400 per game on average in BCS conferences, but Pereira said the new officials weren't offered raises to come to the Pac-12. "Many were from Utah and Colorado. and they looked at this as an emerging conference, going from 10 to 12 teams, plus a championship game, and a new TV contract."
Pereira did note that some of the officials who won't be back on the field will be used as assistants in the replay booth, indicating that in at least some cases, the changes were about physical ability in advancing years, not necessarily rules and judgment.
"This is a huge culture change, and there has not been this type of turnover in officials probably in a long time," Pereira said. "It's part of a new accountability, and a new emphasis on training that I think is good for officiating, period."
Pereira also announced that the conference is hiring seven supervisors, who will oversee each of the seven officiating positions (referee, umpire, linesman, line judge, back judge, field judge, side judge), as well as eighth one for the replay booth. Essentially, these will be position specialists.
Six of the supervisors are existing NFL officials, who during the week will work with the Pac-12. They will conduct conference calls with the officials they are overseeing, and work to create training videos. Pereira said the emphasis will be on training to improve officiating each week.
"This concept of having coordinators for each position has never been used before in any of the college conferences," Pereira said.
Previously, in addition to the coordinator, the conference only had a couple of trainers, and people who evaluated each game.
Pereira also said officials will be evaluated not just on the accuracy and consistency of their calls, but also aspects such as communication, professionalism, fitness, and rules knowledge.
"All of those things will be taken into account when we evaluate the performance of an official at the end of the season," Pereira said.
One change that would help would be better communications, ranging from more detailed explanations, and in-stadium replay of reviewed calls. In too many cases, the loss of control of games is as much a product of uncertainty over decisions that are not obvious as it is about the errors.
A number of Pac-12 officials, including some of the new ones, will work spring practices and spring games around the conference, providing more opportunities for evaluation and training. There will also be other officials working spring practices and games. These officials will be in the pool of applicants, individuals Pereira described at "the next-level guys that we think will be future Pac-12 officials."
To support the stated goal of providing training, the conference is also building an officiating command center in the league office in Walnut Creek, CA.
Pereira notes that the other BCS conferences already have such resources, and said that the Pac-12 is now "coming into the modern era. We'll be able to track every game as it happens, and cut and sort plays to make immediate training tapes."
This alone should over time make a big improvement, and illustrates yet another area where former commissioner Tom Hansen had allowed to conference to fall behind.
A sound training program should help; after all, you can't really expect top quality work when adequate training and tools (the technology) aren't available.
Pereira will continue to work for the conference thru the coming season, but the conference will begin the search to hire a new permanent coordinator of football officiating by later this spring.
"Our goal as we expanded the conference was to have the best officiating program in the country and just a new, fresh look moving forward," Pereira concluded.