Arizona kept quiet Monday after reports said the Pac-12 has investigated conference officials' coordinator Ed Rush for "inappropriate comments" about Wildcats basketball coach Sean Miller in meetings with officials during the Pac-12 tournament.
CBSSports.com and the Seattle Times said Rush told a group of officials during the Pac-12 Tournament that he would reward officials with an expenses-paid vacation or $5,000 in cash if they assessed a technical foul on or ejected Miller. Those comments were inappropriate but made "in jest," according to a statement from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.
Rush reiterated before the Arizona-UCLA semifinal on March 15 that officials should take action if Miller did anything during that game, according to CBSSports.com.
Miller was whistled for a costly technical foul against UCLA, after disputing a turnover call on UA guard Mark Lyons with 4:37 left because a UCLA player touched the ball.
The Wildcats ended up losing 66-64 after leading by 11 points in the second half, and Miller vehemently protested after the game without directly blaming officials.
"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."
Two days after the game, Miller was fined $25,000 by the Pac-12 for confronting an official immediately after the game and for "acting inappropriately" toward a conference staff member later after the game. Miller did not issue a statement after the fine, did not show up the next day at his weekly news conference and declined to say if he would pay it when asked on March 20 in Salt Lake City.
A UA spokesman said Monday evening that Miller would not comment, and UA athletic director Greg Byrne also declined to comment when reached Monday. However, Byrne has indicated consistent support of Miller in statements.
After the fine was announced on March 17, Byrne said on Twitter only that he was "aware" of the fine and that "I'm glad Sean Miller is our coach."
In his statement Monday, Byrne said:
"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."
While it is unclear whether Byrne has protested the fine, Pac-12 spokesman Erik Hardenbergh said it would still apply.
"They are two separate incidents," Hardenbergh said. "The fine was a result from an earlier reprimand and his outburst following the (March 15) game in Las Vegas. The fine was in no way related to the inappropriate comments" from Rush.
Scott was unavailable for comment, but he told the Seattle Times that while Rush perceived Miller to have been recently "over the line" with sideline behavior, Rush also intended the message to include any coach who was inappropriately acting out.
In his statement, Scott said he ordered a review after hearing a complaint that Rush inappropriately offered officials incentives for being stricter with coaches.
"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 said. "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."
According to the Seattle Times, when Scott was asked Monday if relations between Rush and Arizona can be reconciled, Scott said, "Based on the review I had ordered on this issue, it was clear that the point Ed Rush was trying to make was about coaches' behavior and decorum generally."
The Pac-12 did not say if Rush would be disciplined in any other way. The league and its coordinator of officials work on year-to-year contract agreements.