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ASU Football: The Importance of Pac-12's Merton Hanks

The PAC-12 released its football schedule on Saturday before the slate of games on national television. The amount of work and preparation it took to get a schedule out in such a quick and timely manner is something to be impressed by. That’s all thanks to the help of the newly appointed Senior Associate Commissioner for Football Operations Merton Hanks. Let’s dive into how he hopes to improve PAC-12 football this season and in seasons beyond.

The former NFL and college football player and executive started on September 8 and was thrown in the fire right away. Less than 10 days after the conference voted to have fall football in 2020, the PAC-12 will have its tentative seven-week schedule out over a month before the season begins. “The time constraint was difficult. Usually, these things take months to kind of align at the requests and needs of our television partners, but we’re working diligently to get that done,” Hanks said in a media call on Thursday.

With no room for error, it will be important for the conference to set aside rules and guidelines if games had to be canceled due to COVID-19. “We better have legislative language in our tiebreakers and other facets to address that issue because we’re calendar constrained,” Hanks said in order to get two teams in the conference championship.

Officiating in the PAC-12 in 2019 was a struggle and something that Hanks addressed as well in efforts to improve the diversity and performance of the officials moving forward. He also discussed wanting to make the PAC-12 be the pipeline for future NFL officials, stating that the best referees will want to come out west if they see other officials succeeding and making the jump into the NFL. The goal is to make them perform at the highest level and be in the best shape to make the correct calls week in and week out.

Hanks also talked about the current opt-outs that have been happening around the conference and what he would tell players who are thinking of opting out this fall. He said the conference has to look the student-athletes in the face and say that they have done everything they can from the health and safety standpoint. “Whether it be testing, medical, equipment, field conditions, scheduling. Your health and safety comes first, here’s how we’re going to ensure that,” Hanks said.

Overall, Hanks’ goal is to improve the conference over the next five-plus years, while bringing the PAC-12 back to prominence. There was a lot of praise being thrown around from ASU Athletic Director Ray Anderson about Hanks. “There’s credibility and respect for him. The intelligence he brings, the leadership he brings, the comfort he brings when he talks, folks believe it, and there’s no questioning. That’s been very important,” Anderson explained.

Of course, Merton returned the favor, praising Anderson and the job he’s done for ASU not only in athletics but in every way he’s made the university better. “Arizona State has been blessed with tremendous leadership under Ray Anderson,” Hanks said. “The Pac12 is in a better position today than it was yesterday.”