Some unbelievable news out of the Pac-12 Conference this afternoon as CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman is reporting that Pac-12 Head of Officials Ed Rush is being investigated by the conference for allegedly offering to pay referees to target Arizona coach Sean Miller.
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.”
This sounds like the referee equivalent of the NFL’s “Bounty-Gate”. If referees are being asked to zone in on a coach, then there is going to be a serious rift in the system and relationship between college coaches and refs for the time being, as if there already wasn’t one.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott also 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.”
Rush also served as a referee in the NBA and as the league’s director of officiating for five seasons.
Goodman also goes on to quote a referee as saying that another official acted out of character when his issued Miller a technical in the Wildcats’ 66-64 loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 semifinals — one that was controversial from the get-go — and confirmed the official, Michael Irving, was in the room with Rush when he issued the alleged bounty. Miller was fined $25,000 for criticizing officials after that game.
Rush should lose his job and any credibility he has. Period. The man has been an official long enough to know that you don’t make statements like this, serious or not. And as of right now, whether he meant the bounty or not, it sounds like at least one official might’ve taken him seriously on that offer. The fact that Larry Scott seems to be ok with just a slap on the wrist is flat out wrong. The only “steps” the conference should be taking to ensure he doesn’t do this again, is by telling him he no longer has a position with the Pac-12.
Bottom line, whether Rush meant his comments or not, they may have had an affect on a pretty important game, which is grounds for severe punishment. His actions put the integrity of the game and those in his profession at risk.
There’s been a ton of scrutiny regarding officials this season, a lot more than in seasons past. And this sure won’t help alleviate the problem.
Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten