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Pac-12 Conference looks to the safety of its athletes

A 'head trauma task force' is an element of a conference initiative. Meanwhile, Commissioner Larry Scott says Pac-12 Networks had successful first year.

June 04, 2013|Chris Dufresne
  • "I'm completely looking forward, not in the rear-view mirror," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said of the controversy involving the conference's former director of men's basketball referees.
"I'm completely looking forward, not in the rear-view mirror,"… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

The Pac-12 Conference is working on an initiative to improve the health and safety of its more than 7,000 athletes. The elements of the initiative include a "head trauma task force" and "football contact reduction."

The head trauma task force will seek ways to limit hits to the head and also to minimize the damage of those blows. The football contact initiative will study and monitor contact at practice. A final policy will be released at the Pac-12 football media day on July 26.

"Pac-12 institutions house the leading medical trainers, doctors, and scientists working to enhance student-athlete health and well-being," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement released by the conference. "Our athletic departments and coaches have been very progressive in this area and are deeply committed to advancing these efforts."

Scott also held something of a state-of-the-conference briefing Monday in which he spoke about a variety of topics:

• The first year of the Pac-12 Networks was "hugely successful," Scott said, even though the conference has yet to reach a deal with carrier DirecTV.

Scott said the Pac-12 Networks made a profit in their inaugural year and will increase the number of live televised events next year from 550 to 750. The Pac-12, unlike other major conferences, does not release how much broadcast revenue it distributes to each school.

• The league hopes to soon hire a director of men's basketball officiating. Ed Rush resigned after a controversy erupted in March at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. Rush had offered a financial bounty for any Pac-12 referee who ejected, or called a technical foul on, Arizona Coach Sean Miller.

An independent report commissioned by the Pac-12, released Sunday, confirmed the league's internal finding that Rush was joking about the bounty. Scott said he doesn't think there will be any residual issues with the Pac-12 and Miller.

• Several major conferences, including the Pac-12 and Southeastern, favor a plan that will use increased television money to compensate athletes with an additional scholarship stipend. Lower-level leagues, which don't have those resources, are opposed. There has been speculation that the issue could lead to the five major football conferences' breaking off into a separate division.

"I'd like to think it could happen under the current structure," Scott said of the stipend. "This is clearly the right thing."

• All major conferences are expected to eventually end up with nine-game conference schedules after the College Football Playoff debuts in 2014. The Pac-12 and Big 12 already play nine games and the Big Ten is moving to nine in 2016. The SEC will play an eight-game schedule in 2014 and 2015 and then reevaluate. The Atlantic Coast also plays an eight-game schedule.

Scott said the new playoff, which will use a selection committee to pick the top four teams, will put a higher emphasis on strength of schedule. "I think it's fair to say every conference is looking in the mirror to reflect on how they stack up," he said.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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