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Pac-12 hires veteran executive Merton Hanks as new football operations czar

Merton Hanks, then the NFL vice president of football operations, speaks during a 2016 news conference.
Merton Hanks, then the NFL vice president of football operations, speaks during a 2016 news conference in Kahuku, Hawaii.
(Eugene Tanner / Associated Press)

The Pac-12 Conference announced Thursday that it has hired veteran NFL and college football executive Merton Hanks to fill the newly created role of senior associate commissioner for football operations, essentially making him the conference’s football czar.

When he starts the job early next month, Hanks will oversee Pac-12 scheduling, officiating, replay command center, operations, the conference championship game and bowl relationships. He also will serve as the primary contact for Pac-12 athletic directors and football coaches, bowl partners and NCAA administrators regarding football issues.

“Football success is a priority for our athletic programs and the conference,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement, “and having someone with the college football and NFL experience that Merton brings to the table will be a great asset for our members and senior management team.”

With no player-led movements calling for coronavirus safeguards, lawyers for the SEC, Big-12 and ACC are comfortable with holding a college football season.

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Hanks replaces Pac-12 general counsel and football administrator Woodie Dixon, albeit in a revised role. Dixon departed to become general counsel at Chegg, the education technology company based in Santa Clara.

The hiring of Hanks comes as the conference tries to rebound from a number of officiating blunders in recent years involving instant replay and oversight of officials. Dixon was removed from his role working with football officiating before last season in the wake of a report that was critical of his influence in the overturning a possible targeting penalty against Washington State in a 2018 game against USC. Officials also missed what appeared to be a targeting penalty against USC later in the game.

Hanks’ duties also will include serving on the College Football Officiating Board of Managers, College Football Officiating Competition Committee and the NCAA football rules committee. He previously had spent the last four years as senior associate commissioner for Conference USA, where he handled a variety of duties, including football and baseball operations as well as scheduling and officiating.

Merton Hanks, left, with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Jan. 15, 2017.
(Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press)

Before working with Conference USA, Hanks had spent 13 years with the NFL, rising to vice president for football operations and compliance. As a player, he was a four-time Pro Bowl selection who spent eight of his nine seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

Now he’ll be be based in San Francisco again.

“I am excited to be joining the Conference of Champions and to have the opportunity to contribute to the continued growth of the Pac-12’s football programs,” Hanks said in a statement. “The Pac-12 boasts world-class universities and an incredible football history, and I look forward to working with the Pac-12 athletic directors, administrators and commissioner Scott’s great team to support our student-athletes success on and off the field.”


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