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And now, a few words with Mr. Pac-10

Commissioner addresses officiating, bowls and excessive celebrations

When Tom Hansen came to the Pacific-10 Conference in 1983, the league was only five years removed from the old Pac-8. John Elway had just ended a four-year run at Stanford, Oregon State was a basketball power and women's sports were underfunded.

Plenty has changed since then, but the University of Washington graduate remains as the Pac-10's commissioner.

Hansen, once a sportswriter at The Vancouver Columbian, answered a few questions posed to him by the Tribune.

Trib: How has the quality of officiating been in the Pac-10 this fall?

Hansen: It has been good. Mistakes are going to be made and have been made, but our officials stack up with any conference in the country.

Trib: Dan Fouts says the officiating at the USC-Washington State game was the worst he has seen, and it seems that there have been more complaints this year than ever before.

Hansen: I know we had criticism of the USC-Washington State game, which I didn't see and haven't had a chance to watch on videotape. Every week we have a videotape review, and every official is graded on every play. Verle Sorgen (Pac-10 coordinator of officials) has been told that there were some questionable calls. There are always two sides to a call, but we are doing our best to provide our teams with the best officiating we can.

Trib: What do you think of the NCAA's excessive celebration rule?

Hansen: It's unfortunate we have to apply it. Our players watch what happens (in the NFL) on Sundays, and it's ludicrous what those players get away with.

Throughout college football, we have agreed that the players aren't going to have those demonstrative showings after every play was made. The problem is, it (excessive celebration) is not a judgment call about an actual play. On holding or clipping or offside, most everyone would agree on a call, but with excessive celebration, officials have different standards, frankly.

It's always unfortunate when we put burdens on officials outside of the contest itself, but the rule is there and we have to call it.

Trib: Is there selective enforcement? Is a team's reputation entering into some of the calls?

Hansen: I don't think so. At times it has been inconsistently called. People complain: 'Why do you call this against us and not that against them? My guy didn't do anything worse than their guy did.' I assure you that when people start talking about 'us' and 'them,' there is a huge bias.

Trib: Shouldn't the penalty be limited to taunting the opponent? What is hurt by a player celebrating a touchdown or big play in front of his team's fans?

Hansen: There's a difference between what some people think it should be. Showboating, showing off, displaying yourself in front of the fans: Those things are going to get flagged. Oregon State has had a particular problem with it. The Oregon State players have to understand, if they run to the stands and perform (a celebratory act), there's a pretty good chance they are going to be penalized for it.

Trib: The Pac-10's bowl alignment includes the Rose Bowl (first place), Holiday Bowl (second), Sun Bowl (third), Insight.com Bowl (fourth), Las Vegas Bowl (fifth) and Silicon Valley Bowl (sixth). Everyone moves up if Southern California gets into the Sugar Bowl this year. How do you feel about the conference's affiliations?

Hansen: They're about as good as we can do. We have every good bowl in the West except the Fiesta. Obviously, in the Rose and Holiday bowls, we have two great ones. The Sun Bowl, so loyal to us for so long, is probably not a designation all the fans would rush to, but they show the kids a great time.

We took a hard run at the Alamo Bowl (in San Antonio), but Builder's Square became the sponsor, and they wanted a Big Ten affiliation because most of their stores are in that area. We found out Hawaii is a very difficult thing to do. I would like to see us take another look at the San Francisco Bowl, but there are not a lot of other options. É The other major bowls just aren't interested in us.

Trib: How long is the Pac-10 contracted with each of its bowl affiliates?

Hansen: Two more years after this year for all of them except the Silicon Valley, which is up this year. We are kind of waiting to see how it does this time.

Trib: The Las Vegas Bowl is on Christmas Eve, which makes it less attractive to some fans who don't want to be gone for the holiday.

Hansen: But at least it's on Christmas Eve and not Christmas Day, as it was last year. The kids can play the game, then be home for Christmas. It's not perfect, but television controls the dates and time slots. You have to pretty much play when they say.

Trib: If USC makes the Sugar Bowl, is the Rose Bowl obligated to take the No. 2 Pac-10 team?

Hansen: Not obligated, but Rose Bowl officials have made it very clear they want to keep the game a contest between the (Pac-10 and Big Ten) conferences. What we have to do is get Washington State to nine wins, and the Rose Bowl will have an easy choice.

Trib: What are the biggest issues for the conference to address in the upcoming years?

Hansen: We have two. One is renegotiating the Rose Bowl and BCS rights for the next cycle. Our contract goes through 2006, but we are in the process of beginning a plan to renegotiate next summer.

The other thing is the California Senate bill that would effectively take our state-of-California members out of the conference. (Senate Bill 193 would prohibit colleges from forcing earnings limitations, penalizing transfers and other things in conflict with NCAA rules. It must be enacted or dropped by fall of 2004). As soon as that happens, you are out of the NCAA.

Somebody who doesn't understand the nature of college athletics thinks with the passage of the bill, the NCAA would have to acquiesce. We are trying to work it out with the legislative assembly.