Pac-12 Conference Hires Its First Dedicated Head of Football Operations

    • Seasoned NFL and college executive Merton Hanks will oversee all aspects of football administration.
    • Hanks’ hiring comes shortly after the conference canceled all of its sports through at least Jan. 1, 2021.

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The Pac-12 Conference has hired a dedicated supervisor for all things football, reporting to Commissioner Larry Scott. 

Merton Hanks, a seasoned NFL and college sports executive, will assume the role of senior associate commissioner for football operations, the conference announced on Aug. 20. Hanks will oversee all aspects of Pac-12 football administration, including all initiatives and programs such as scheduling, officiating, replay command center, operations, and the Pac-12 Football Championship Game and bowl relationships. 

He will also be the primary point of contact for all football-related items for athletic directors, coaches, bowl partners and NCAA administrators. “In the simplest terms, if it touches football, I’m going to be involved with it regarding the Pac-12,” Hanks told ESPN.

“Football success is a priority for our athletic programs and the Conference, 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,” Scott said in an announcement. 

Prior to the Pac-12, Hanks served as the senior associate commissioner for football and baseball at Conference USA since 2016. He served on the inaugural NCAA Football Competition Committee and was later voted the second chair of the committee, following the chairmanship of Arizona State University Athletic Director Ray Anderson.

Hanks spent 13 years working for the NFL, with the last five coming as vice president of football operations and compliance. In that role, he served as the NFL’s compliance appeals officer, instituted safety and equipment upgrades, and coordinated departmental business strategy, according to the Pac-12 announcement. He was also co-chair of the NFL College Relations and Campus Visitation Committee and the lead liaison to AFCA, NFLPA, NCAA and NFL club administration.  

As a player, Hanks was an All-Pro defensive back and spent eight seasons with the 49ers and nine total in the NFL. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl XXIX champion. He played college football at Iowa, graduating in 1990, then went on to get a master’s degree in sports administration at Stanford. 

Since retiring as a player, Hanks held a number of radio and television roles, while also conducting speaking engagements around the country.

Hanks’ hiring comes shortly after the conference canceled all of its sports through at least Jan. 1, 2021, and said that it is looking at holding a spring football season. In recent years, Pac-12 football has struggled to gain traction on the national stage both in its on-field success and fan appeal — many lament the conference’s inconvenient TV contract that keeps some games hidden away from many viewers on its namesake network. The network’s current distribution deal is set to expire in 2024. 

In early August, a report surfaced that the conference is considering a loan program for its schools worth up to $1 billion dollars in the wake of the football cancellation. Football generates approximately $50 million in ticket sales and media rights alone per season for each Pac-12 school.