Pac-12 official resigns as controversy swirls

Rush offered money, trip to refs, said he was joking
2013-04-05T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:30:46Z Pac-12 official resigns as controversy swirlsBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Saying the "integrity of the game" has always been his top concern, Pac-12 coordinator of men's basketball officiating Ed Rush resigned Thursday as the avalanche of pressure in and outside of Arizona continued to grow.

While UA athletic director Greg Byrne first acknowledged Wednesday he expressed his concerns with the Pac-12, he said Thursday after Rush's resignation that he knew "there was a deep concern with our peer institutions as well."

Pac-12 officiating had become a national controversy since conference commissioner Larry Scott said earlier this week that Rush made "inappropriate comments" while trying to prod his officials into more firmly dealing with Arizona's Sean Miller and other coaches during the Pac-12 tournament last month.

An initial CBSSports.com report said Rush offered officials cash or an expense-paid vacation if they issued a technical on or ejected Miller, comments that Scott said were made "in jest." Scott later told ESPN Radio that a Pac-12 investigation found that Rush did not have a "bounty" on Miller but instead was trying to get his officials to do a better job of containing the coaches.

Rush was "not solely focused on Coach Miller but on several coaches," Scott said on Tuesday. "That started a banter and discussion about 'What do I have to do to get you guys to enforce the rules? … Do I gotta give you a trip or do I gotta give you money?'"

Scott told ESPN Radio that Rush's comments were not a "fireable offense" and noted that the conference would evaluate Rush after the season by talking with coaches, athletic directors and officials during its annual postseason reviews.

Scott told the Star via text message Thursday that the conference did not hear of any concerns from any other Pac-12 schools.

By 5 p.m. Thursday, the Pac-12 had issued a statement that Rush had resigned.

"My first and highest concerns have always been the integrity of the game of basketball and the honor of the craft of officiating," Rush said in the statement. "While I am proud of what we have accomplished, my decision to resign reflects my strong desire to see the Pac-12 officiating program continue to grow and thrive."

Byrne indicated on Twitter that the conference can now move forward, posting: "Although u never want someone to lose their job, this is a good step for the Pac-12 in restoring confidence in the bball officiating program."

Conference spokesman Erik Hardenbergh said he could not add to what was in the Pac-12's release, in which Scott issued only a positive statement about Rush's accomplishments.

"I want to express my appreciation for the great contribution Ed made to basketball officiating for the conference during his tenure, particularly in the area of training and the cultivation of new officiating talent," Scott said. "All of us at the conference thank him for his years of hard work, and we wish him well."

Miller declined to comment through a spokesman, as he has about the officiating situation since he was fined $25,000 for his postgame actions after the UA's loss to UCLA in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament on March 15.

During that game - and after Rush had prodded officials in meetings - Miller was assessed a costly technical foul when, according to Scott, he stepped outside of the coaching box despite having been warned twice.

The technical foul resulted in two made UCLA free throws, which proved the edge in the Bruins' 66-64 victory, and Miller held a heated postgame news conference in which he referred to the technical after nearly every question.

"The reason I got a technical foul is because I said, 'He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball,'" Miller said after the game. "That's a hard one now when you work August, September, October, November, December, January, February, and here we are."

Miller was fined not for those comments, but for what Scott said were two instances of verbal abuse after the game.

"One was going out on court, getting in the grille of the official, which you don't do after a game in front of the crowd," Scott told ESPN. "Secondly, in the hallway, an innocent staff person standing there, he laced into, ripped into. You are role model, a leader of student-athletes, you represent your university. We hold these coaches to high standards of behavior. These things Coach (Miller) had quietly been warned about early in the season. There is a high threshold for a coach to be fined."

Miller has paid the fine already, Scott said, and it will not be reversed despite the Rush controversy.

"They are two separate incidents," Hardenbergh said. "The fine was a result from an earlier reprimand and his outburst following the (UCLA-UA) game in Las Vegas. The fine was in no way related to the inappropriate comments" from Rush.

Hardenbergh said there is no timetable to appoint a successor to Rush, though the process will begin when the conference holds its postseason review after this weekend's Final Four.

Contact reporter Bruce Pascoe at bpascoe@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @BrucePascoe

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