Pac-12 to take no further action in officiating dispute
Pac-12 school presidents will take no further action after an independent review found the conference properly handled concerns about officiating during its conference tournament.
A report released Sunday by Indianapolis-based law firm Ice Miller LLP said the Pac-12 was correct in its assessment that coordinator of officiating Ed Rush wasn't serious when he offered bounties to any official who disciplined Arizona coach Sean Miller during the Pac-12 tournament in March.
Ice Miller also agreed that Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott had the authority and made a reasonable decision in fining Miller $25,000 for his actions during and after Arizona's semifinal game against UCLA.
The report did say a technical foul against Miller during the UCLA game likely would have not been called had Rush not directed officials to be more strict about bench decorum, but found that the game was officiated with integrity and no favoritism toward either team.
The Pac-12 CEO Group, comprised of school presidents, said the conference will use the report to guide how it restructures the men's basketball officiating program and polices.
"The Pac-12 CEO Group fully reviewed and discussed the Ice Miller report and agreed that it was an objective analysis of all known facts surrounding the officiating dispute at this year's Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament,'' Pac-12 CEO Group chair and Oregon State President Edward J. Ray said in a statement. "The CEO Group accepted the report, agreed there is no further action required, and determined that this independent review brings closure to the matter.''
The Pac-12's officiating program came under scrutiny following the conference tournament, when reports surfaced that Rush had offered $5,000 or a trip to Mexico for any official who hit Miller with a technical foul or ejected him from a game.
Miller did receive a technical foul late in Arizona's loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals on March 15 and went on a memorable rant during a postgame interview, waving his arms and repeating "he touched the ball'' five times.
Rush said he made the bounty offer in jest to lighten the mood in the officials' locker room, but resigned as coordinator of officiating on April 4.
Miller was hit with the hefty fine for what the conference said was for confronting an official on the floor and acting inappropriately toward a staff member in the hallway after Arizona's two-point loss to UCLA.
A Pac-12 review of Rush's actions found that he was not serious in offering the incentives against Miller, but the conference decided to commission an independent review after public criticism of its officiating program continued to mount.
"Coach Miller and I have discussed the report, and we are ready to move forward,'' Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said. "We remain hopeful this report will lead to improvements in our officiating program. At this time I will have no further comment.''
The Ice Miller report said Rush, concerned about coaches' sideline decorum during the conference tournament, offered incentives of cash and a trip to Cancun as officials gathered between games during the quarterfinals round and again during an officials meeting before the semifinal between Arizona and UCLA.
Officials at both meetings offered conflicting reports about Rush's demeanor, but agreed that his offers were not intended to be taken literally.
The report said Rush's statements during the meetings never created an impression that the officials would actually receive a vacation or cash.
It also said Arizona's coaches said the game against UCLA seemed different because of the emphasis on bench decorum and officials gave several verbal warnings to assistant coaches and players to stay seated on the bench.
The report said Miller did not use profane language or flail before receiving a technical foul with 4:37 left, but that he did come out onto the court for a few seconds before stepping back. As two officials conferred on the call in question, the third called a technical foul on Miller, prompting Rush to say, "That's not good,'' because the technical did not appear to be warranted, according his colleague.
Despite the technical foul, the Ice Miller report found officials did not demonstrate favoritism to either team or coach during the game.
"I am pleased the report by the Ice Miller Collegiate Sports Practice will result in positive change to the Pac-12's oversight of its officiating program,'' Arizona president Ann Weaver Hart said. "The Conference's commitment to maintain integrity and improve the quality of officiating was important to the executive committee. I look forward to seeing major changes in the way in which the Pac-12 organizes and oversees basketball officiating.''
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