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Texts show Mike Leach blasted Pac-12 refs after big mistakes in Wazzu-USC

Leach reportedly called a Pac-12 employee “a total coward.”

The Pac-12 received criticism for its handling of a couple plays during USC’s game against Washington State on Sept. 21.

On one in the third quarter, Cougar linebacker Logan Tago was called for a personal foul for this late hit on Trojan quarterback JT Daniels.

The play was also reviewed for targeting, but the refs ruled that the hit didn’t include “forcible contact,” which is part of the rule. But that wasn’t even the most controversial part.

Aaccording to Yahoo Sports, the play wasn’t confirmed as targeting because a Pac-12 employee, who wasn’t actually trained to be part of the replay crew, didn’t agree with the call:

The replay report obtained by Yahoo Sports states that “unfortunately a third party did not agree” with the call. That “third party” was Pac-12 general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs Woodie Dixon, Yahoo Sports sources have confirmed.

Dixon oversees football for the conference but is not a formally trained official. Dixon telephoned in his opinion that the play wasn’t targeting, sources said. According to the report, his opinion overruled both the trained officials in the stadium replay booth and in the league’s command center.

“I’m in shock, honestly,” commentator Greg McElroy said during the ESPN broadcast. “Just knowing how many times I’ve seen targeting called on plays similar to that. I am really surprised that Logan Tago is still going to be playing in this game.”

Here’s what Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott explained:

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement to Yahoo Sports denying there was a “third party” involved, as Dixon is typically in the command center and part of the replay collaboration team, in part because he has a full understanding of targeting. “Our instant replay supervisor [Bill Richardson] is the ultimate decision maker,” Scott said. “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.”

During an Oct. 11 press conference, Scott further addressed the Yahoo story:

But the thing is, the first hit wasn’t even the game’s most controversial hit at the time.

Late in the fourth quarter, USC linebacker Porter Gustin delivered this hit on Cougs quarterback Gardner Minshew.

Wazzu blog CougCenter nails it on why this should have been called targeting:

Note that you need only one of those indicators for a foul. This one had all four, and is exactly the kind of hit that has no business in football. He comes in late and high on a defenseless player (who is also being dragged down already), crouches and launches, lowers his head, and goes high. It’s a great way to cause a concussion and a whole lot of other injuries that get more serious from there.

Commissioner Scott on that one:

Scott said he had consulted the officiating team about that call. He said every play is reviewed.

“So you can certainly assume that play got a lot of looks, not just from the replay booth at the stadium, but we’ve got our command center back in San Francisco with our head of officiating and a bunch of experienced replay guys, who absolutely would have looked at that play,” he said.

Ten days after Yahoo’s first report, it’s been revealed that Wazzu head coach Mike Leach directly called out Pac-12 officiating after the game.

According to Yahoo Sports, Leach sent text messages to Dixon and Scott about the Pac-12’s officiating four days after the game. He apparently called Dixon “a total coward” who’s afraid of USC(!):

Leach blasts the league for not backing up its public posturing about commitment to player safety. Leach wrote to Dixon in the wake of the Gustin hit: “Don’t ever waste my time, making me sit through some sanctimonious speech or demonstration on player safety or targeting if you are going to continue to alibi what happened last Friday.”

Leach also said in a text message to Scott: “The Pac-12 cannot say with any credibility, that they are actually trying to protect student athletes.”

In a text that same week to Dixon, who is the Pac-12 general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs, Leach referenced a controversial game with Stanford from 2015. He accused Dixon of calling Washington State staff in the press box during that game and making them turn down the band noise because they were “playing too loud.” Leach then wrote: “Why can’t I help wondering, if you’re trying to manipulate wins and losses?”

Dixon responded: “Mike don’t ever again accuse [me of] of manipulating wins and losses. Please show this text to your AD and have him give me a call.”

The Pac-12 responded:

“While we do not comment on private communications with coaches, if there is ever a serious allegation of any kind from a coach we follow up and discuss the matter with the relevant university athletic department and provide them with an opportunity to request an inquiry into the matter. No such request has been received from Washington State University.”

Only the Pac-12 could generate weeks’ worth of headlines from two calls.

The conference’s officiating long ago inspired the #Pac12Refs hashtag, its teams have been bad on the field in both major revenue sports, and confidence in conference leadership eroded a long time ago.