Thu Mar 03 07:55am EST
Making the morning rounds.
• The hatchet man can. As if expansion and the formation of a conference network wasn't proof enough, here's more evidence that Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott means business around here: After enduring years of a hard-earned reputation for incompetence, the conference is ditching 11 football officials who worked Pac-10 games last year in its transition to the Pac-12 this fall. The outgoing cast will be replaced 16 new officials from the Big 12, Mountain West and WAC, according to interim officiating coordinator Mike Pereira, whose mercenary mission in the role now seems perfectly clear. "I'm not saying [the officiating] was horrible, but it was not at the level that it deserved to be and that this conference deserves to have," he told the Seattle Times. "We felt like these 16 were better than the 11 that did not have their contracts renewed." On the bright side, some of the exiles will be asked to assist in replay booths, and there won't be any ax to grind with Pereira's permanent successor.
OK, here's one more, for the Husky fans:
• Whatever y'all wanna do, I'm right behind you. New NCAA president Mark Emmert said Wednesday he'd be perfectly willing to oversee a college football playoff – but only if university presidents ask him nicely. "If the leadership of those universities … want to move in that direction, then the NCAA knows how to run championships and we'd be happy to help," Emmert told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, where he formerly served as LSU's chancellor. On the other hand… "Kids love playing bowl games. Schools love participating in bowl games and everybody knows that, so it's finding that right balance that I think is going to be challenging." [Associated Press]
• And here come the subpoenas. North Carolina investigators have issued a search warrant for financial records of NFL agent Gary Wichard in the ongoing Secretary of State investigation into whether Wichard broke state sports agent laws by funneling money to former UNC defensive lineman Marvin Austin. Yahoo! Sports obtained multiple documents last year tying Wichard to Austin, who allegedly traveled to and stayed in California on Wichard's dime in 2009, and former Tar Heel assistant coach John Blake, a personal friend, who was accused of taking money from Wichard and steering clients toward his agency, Pro Tect management.
Whether or not they committed any crimes, all three major players in the case have suffered professionally: Wichard was suspended for six months by the NFL Players' Association, Blake was fired by North Carolina and Austin missed all of his senior season last fall, submarining his team and his draft stock. [Associated Press]
• Get back. Texas' Alex Okafor, once hyped as the No. 1 incoming defensive end in the class of 2009, is moving back to defensive end after spending most of his sophomore season as a 260-pound defensive tackle. "When we went through offseason drills — watching the way he moves, watching the way he works — we felt like he had the athleticism to be outside," said new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. "So we wanted to give him the opportunity to start out there." Which he should, opposite equally hyped sophomore Jackson Jeffcoat – although there's still no good answer for the tackle spot Okafor occupied last year next to Kheeston Randall. [Austin American-Statesman]
• The rap sheet. Washington State linebacker Louis Bland was charged with felony assault in the wee hours of Saturday morning, when Pullman police were allegedly called to an apartment twice to break up a dispute between Bland and his girlfriend. The first time, around 3 a.m., officers reported that they were unable to find cause for an arrest and left. They received another call about 30 minutes later reporting "a female screaming from the same residence," and this time found evidence to back up claims that Bland had elbowed the woman in the back, hit her in the head and choked her. They also found some evidence for Bland's claim that he was acting in self-defense, but determined that he was the "major aggressor" and booked him on a class b felony, which can result in a 10-year sentence and $20,000 fine upon conviction. [Spokane Spokesman Review]
Quickly… Arizona boots receiver Bug Wright for "a chronic problem that hasn't rectified itself." … Tommy Streeter's looking for a fresh start in Miami after three disappointing seasons. …Geno Smith says he's "full go" for West Virginia's spring practice. … Colorado lowers season ticket prices. … A somewhat personal defense of oversigning from a beat writer caught in the crossfire. … And no, I am not touching this.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.