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Pac-12 hires Merton Hanks to oversee football operations

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Hanks, a former 49ers star, will head operations including officiating, scheduling, replays, and other items

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The Pac-12 announced that they’ve hired former San Francisco 49ers standout, Merton Hanks, to oversee football operations. He’ll work with the 12 member university’s athletic directors and head coaches as well as with conference officials and NCAA officials.

Hanks’ role will be as the Senior Associate Commissioner for Football Operations, a similar role as to the one he held while with the Conference-USA the past four seasons. He’ll start with the Pac-12 on September 8.

Hanks, a former All-Big-Ten cornerback from Iowa and former All-Pro safety from San Francisco, he takes the role previously filled by Woodie Dixon, who recently stepped down. Hanks mentioned in a call with The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner that a conversation recently with former Oregon Ducks QB Justin Herbert really spoke to him about what a Pac-12 athlete is.

“To me, (Herbert’s) an example of a Pac-12 athlete. He has a 4.0 (grade-point average). He’s a top-level talent. And he’s a very humble young man. My job is to set the conditions to let our athletes flourish.”

Hanks also spent time with NFL Operations, where he also worked with current Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson. Current Sunday Night Football rules analyst and former referee himself, Terry McAulay praised the hire on social media.

“The Pac-12 is an iconic conference to someone like me, who was reared a Big Ten guy,’’ Hanks said. “We want to take a great legacy and improve on it. I want to aid the schools legislatively and operationally to position them to play to their potential.”

Well, he’ll certainly have his hands full as he’ll be integral in paving a path and making a plan for the Pac-12’s return to football this spring. Hanks, who likely hasn’t grasped the full Pac-12 decision-making process from earlier this year, did explain to Wilner more about where he’s coming from and where he’s taking the Pac-12 in an ideal world.

“You want to always be looking at the officiating,” Hanks said. “The three most important positions in college football during the season, are the commissioner, the individual institutions, and the head of officiating. We want the best in class in our officiating. That was the directive from Larry Scott; he wants to be innovative.”

He’ll now get to work very closely with David Coleman, the Pac-12’s much-maligned head of officiating, whom he also worked with during his time with NFL Operations.

Welcome to the Pac-12, Merton! Here’s hoping your experience and expertise can help the conference move forward and be just that, innovative.