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Pac-12 hires a football czar — former 49ers standout Merton Hanks

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FILE: Former San Francisco 49ers’ Merton Hanks, left, poses with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones before an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, in Arlington, Texas.

Michael Ainsworth, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The Pac-12 Conference won’t have a football season this fall, but it now has a football czar of sorts.

Former NFL standout Merton Hanks was hired to be the Pac-12 senior associate commissioner for football operations, the league announced Thursday. The position is a new one for the conference.

The new role will oversee everything to do with football — from Pac-12 football administration, initiatives, scheduling, officiating, replay command center and operations to the conference’s championship game and bowl relationships.

“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.” — Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott

Hanks, a longtime NFL and college football executive, will also be the primary football contact for Pac-12 athletic directors and coaches, bowl partners and NCAA administrators. His position, which will report to commissioner Larry Scott out of the conference’s San Francisco headquarters, begins on Sept. 8.

“I am very pleased to welcome Merton Hanks to the Pac-12 to lead and drive the continued success of our Pac-12 football operations,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “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.”

Hanks will also represent the conference on the College Football Officiating Board of Managers, College Football Officiating Competition Committee and the NCAA Football Rules Committee.

“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 via 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.”

Hanks oversaw football and baseball operations with Conference USA since 2016 after previously working in the NFL for 13 years. According to the press release, Hanks was credited with achieving a nationally recognized level of training for officials at Conference USA, along with ethnic and gender diversity among officials. Conference USA currently has the highest percentage of officials in the NFL.

Hanks was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro honoree during his nine-season NFL career, eight of which were with the San Francisco 49ers. He was the starting safety on the Niners’ Super Bowl XXIX championship team and was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the 2020 class.

The press release included another quote from Ray Anderson, the Arizona State University vice president for university athletics and current chair of the Pac-12 athletic director group, who worked with Hanks in the NFL for almost a decade.

“During that time he was an incredible asset to the league thanks to his knowledge of all aspects of football operations, ability to connect with players and coaches and business acumen,” Anderson said. “Pac-12 football programs will benefit greatly from the appointment of Merton to our conference senior management team.”