Pac-12 officiating for men, women top priority

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott remains committed to the continual improvement of officiating in the conference for both men's and women's basketball and considers it a top priority.

It's been more than a year since the Pac-12 teamed with the Mountain West Conference to form a men's basketball officiating alliance to better coordinate the two leagues' officiating, putting longtime Mountain West coordinator Bobby Dibler in charge of the programs and of managing a pool of top national and regional officials.

''It's kind of a multi-conference approach,'' Scott said during women's basketball media day Wednesday. ''We got great feedback on how that went and some other changes we made to the program. We've got very good stability on the women's officiating side that provides really strong leadership. Certainly when it comes to the topic of officiating, we focus on constant improvement. We're certainly never satisfied and we never want to be complacent. Because it's never perfect. That's the thing about officiating, like a lot of things, perfection is not attainable, so you really have to remain focused.''

It became a more urgent strategy after the Pac-12's officiating system came under scrutiny during the March 2013 conference tournament in Las Vegas, where former officiating coordinator Ed Rush had offered bounties - $5,000 or a trip to Mexico - for any official who disciplined Arizona coach Sean Miller.

While Rush has said he wasn't serious and was ''jokingly'' trying to ''lighten the mood'' in the locker room, he resigned shortly thereafter.

Scott said improvements have been made and that evaluation of the officiating changes is ongoing. Dibler was expected to share his observations during Thursday's Pac-12 men's media day.

''Are we being self-critical? How are we looking at recruiting new talent? Are we holding people accountable? Are we training and grading the way we should?'' he said. ''It's hard, it's one of the hardest aspects of what we do is getting as close to perfect as you can in officiating, and men's and women's basketball are high priorities and we've invested a lot in those.''

The officiating alliance also incorporates joint training and overlapping programs for officials in the Pac-12, the West Coast Conference, Big West Conference and Western Athletic Conference. While the conferences schedule separately from the Pac-12 and Mountain West, geography is a consideration in order to keep officials fresh while also limiting travel.

Neither the men's nor women's games have rules changes to adjust to this season, just further points of emphasis.

The women's officiating coordinator for the conference, Violet Palmer, spoke Wednesday about the added emphasis surrounding contact on the ball handler - or hand-checking - that worked last season to help improve the game, its pace and entertainment value for fans from her perspective.

Palmer discussed officiating with Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne over lunch Wednesday at the Pac-12 Networks. Both women are encouraged by the progress.

''Scoring increased,'' Palmer said. ''It's not as rough.''

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