CBS Sports is reporting that the Pac-12’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, Ed T. Rush, was investigated for offering financial incentives to referees for calling technical fouls on or throwing out Arizona head coach Sean Miller during Pac-12 Tournament games.
Rush, according to a source within the Pac-12 officiating group, told a group of referees on the Thursday of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas that he would give them $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they either “rang him up” or “ran him,” meaning hit Miller with a technical or toss him out of the game. Rush then reiterated during a Friday morning meeting, according to one referee in attendance, that officials should take similar action against Miller if he did anything on Friday in the Pac-12 semifinals against UCLA.
“He was emphatic about not dealing with him (Miller),” the ref told CBSSports.com. “He made that perfectly clear.”
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement to CBSSports.com:
“Based on the review, we have concluded that while Rush made inappropriate comments that he now regrets during internal meetings that referenced rewards, he made the comments in jest and the officials in the room realized they were not serious offers,” Scott told CBSSports.com. “Following our review, we have discussed the matter with Rush, taken steps to ensure it does not happen again, and communicated our findings to all of our officials.”
There’s much more, so be sure to click for the whole story.
Here’s Arizona’s response issued Monday afternoon via email from athletic director Greg Byrne:
“On Sunday, March 17, we first learned of the allegation of the events that occurred during the Conference Tournament. Due to the serious implications, we immediately shared our concerns with Commissioner Scott and the Conference office. We know that an investigation was held and any further issue is a matter for the Pac-12 office.”
A few thoughts:
> This is obviously unacceptable from Rush. He’s a boisterous, showy person and it’s easy to see these words coming from him. Encouraging officials to go after a specific coach is beyond unprofessional.
> The fact that the Pac-12 is standing behind him is also unacceptable. The officiating had a plethora of problems this season, as it seems to annually. The Pac-12 needs to find a way to be more transparent. Explaining the referee assessment process and who graded out where would be a start. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is as savvy a marketer as any conference honcho in the country. He’s losing the PR battle here and needs to fix it by letting everyone behind the curtain to some degree.
> The official who gave Miller a technical during Arizona’s semifinal game against UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament was Michael Irving. He gave out a higher percentage of technicals two seasons ago, and in prior seasons, before Rush was made head of officials. Here’s his technical chart from Statsheet.com:
The source for the CBS story says it’s out of character for Irving to call technicals. Irving called a technical in 18.6 percent of the games he worked last season, though, he has fluctuated throughout his career. Irving’s peak was in 2003, when he called a technical in 44.1 percent of the games he worked.
> Miller cannot be portrayed as the ultimate innocent here. There’s a reason he was mentioned directly by Rush. All coaches work officials in different ways during games. Some scream obscenities, stomp, stare, throw their jackets, etc. I wrote about Miller’s specific actions from the Pac-12 Tournament game when he received the technical, since I was sitting directly across from the Arizona bench. He didn’t spend the afternoon patting the officials on the back.
In all, the Pac-12 has another officiating problem and this feeds the beast since every Pac-12 fan thought the officials were putrid to begin with. Scott suddenly has a summer project on his hands, and a vital one, since the integrity of competition is being called into question.