For years, the phrase “PAC-12 refs” has been synonymous with negativity. The conference seems all-too often to have issues with referees being inconsistent, overly flag-happy, and/or slow to make decisions.
An extensive review of the PAC-12 referees after last season resulted in no significant findings, according to ESPN, but things have only gotten worse in recent weeks.
The refs missed a close call in the Arizona State – Michigan State game back in September, and Ole Miss was unhappy with a call in their game against Cal a week later.
The PAC-12 did suspend a referee and downgrade a few others for performance issues, but then they had two instances where they called penalties on the wrong teams just this month alone.
I could go on, but you get the point.
What Can the Pac-12 Conference Do?
So what can be done? well, at least according to the available data, the PAC-12 does pay their referees at an equal or similar rate as the other power-five conferences.
That doesn’t mean that the quality is better, obviously, but it should separate the cream from the crop when looking for talent.
So maybe, then, the issue lies in talent evaluation? If the PAC-12 genuinely believes they are hiring the best referees available, and paying them as such, but they are having to fine, suspend and downgrade many of their recent hires, then something must be wrong with their initial evaluation – right?
Doing some digging, it’s really hard to find any information on how PAC-12 referees, or any D1 college referees, are trained. They are often independent contractors, paid a previously agreed upon stipend per game, with more experienced refs getting a higher rate pay.
However, there doesn’t seem to be a concrete training system, or really any way to know that the talent you are getting is the best of the best outside of whomever’s job it is to recruit refs.
Development: Pac-12 Officiating
Of course, asking the PAC-12 to fund and develop a complex training system for referees, especially when other conferences don’t have that, is silly. They should, in theory, be able to rely on their ability to pay a higher rate than other local conferences (like the Mountain West) and their talent evaluator to find the best available refs from a pool of high school refs and other qualified applicants.
The officiating is one of many frustrations fans of PAC-12 schools have voiced recently, and the other failures of commissioner Larry Scott has only served to heighten this area of need for the conference.
Fixing the issue is by no means simple, but it’s clear that something has to give, and soon.