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Originally published Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 6:16 PM

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Pac-12's overhaul of football officiating means pink slips for 11 officials

Pac-12's football officiating coordinator adds 16 new officials, tells 11 they won't be back.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Pac-12's recently announced initiative to improve its football officiating includes the removal of 11 officials who worked games a year ago, the conference confirmed Wednesday.

Mike Pereira, named last month the Pac-12's interim coordinator of football officiating, said there will be 16 new officials in the conference next year, hired away from the Big 12, Mountain West and WAC to replace those who were dismissed (along with the 11 who weren't invited back, another retired).

Pereira, whose three-decade officiating career includes a stint as the NFL's vice president of officiating and who served last season as an on-air NFL rules analyst for FOX, was hired as a consultant by the conference in October.

He said his review of officiating made it clear that change was needed in a conference that has earned an unhappy reputation for officiating faux pas 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," he 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."

The conference won't name those that won't be back, Pereira said, though he added that other changes include moving two referees (who are the head of the seven-men crews) to other positions.

"We felt like these 16 were better than the 11 that did not have their contracts renewed," Pereira said.

Adding 16 officials will give the new Pac-12 a total of 49, or seven seven-man crews, Pereira said. An additional crew was needed with the conference expanding from 10 to 12 teams for 2011, adding Utah and Colorado.

Pereira said some of the officials not asked back will be used as assistants in the replay booth.

The overhaul of officiating came at the urging of conference commissioner Larry Scott, who took over on July 1, 2009.

"It's a huge culture change, and there has not been this type of turnover in officials probably in a long time," Pereira said.

He said the changes come as part of what is "a new accountability and a new emphasis on training that I think is good for officiating, period."

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Indeed, Pereira said the conference's entire officiating program is being revamped.

Pereira said the conference is hiring seven supervisors to oversee each of the seven officiating positions (referee, umpire, linesman, line judge, back judge, field judge, side judge), as well as one for the replay booth.

Six of the supervisors, Pereira said, are existing NFL officials who during the week will work with the Pac-12, conducting conference calls with the officials they are overseeing and putting together training videos. He said the emphasis will be on training to improve officiating each week.

Previously, Pereira said the conference had a coordinator, a couple of trainers and people who evaluated each game. "This concept has never been used before at any one of the college conferences," Pereira said of the plan of having individual coordinators for each officiating position.

Pereira said many Pac-12 officials will work spring practices and spring games around the conference, allowing for more evaluation and training. He also said other officials working spring practices and games will be among "a pool of applicants of the next-level guys that we think will be future Pac-12 (officials)."

Pereira 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," he said.

The conference also is building an officiating command center at its office in Walnut Creek, Calif., something Pereira says other BCS conferences already have, adding that the Pac-12 is now "coming into the modern era" in that regard.

"We'll be able to track every game as it happens and cut and sort plays to make immediate training tapes," he said.

Pereira said the conference didn't offer raises to the new officials it lured (officials make roughly $1,400 per game in BCS conferences). Instead, he said many were from Utah and Colorado and that "they looked at this as an emerging conference, going from 10 to 12 teams and now a championship game and a new TV contract."

With Pereira being on an interim basis, the conference will hire a new permanent coordinator of football officiating this spring.

However, Pereira said he will continue to work with the Pac-12 through next season.

"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," he said.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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