The Pacific-12 Conference cleared supervisor of officials Ed Rush of any wrongdoing after an investigation into allegations that he ordered officials to target Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller this season, saying that Rush’s “inappropriate” comments were made in jest.
A source with knowledge of the allegations said the investigation came after Rush told two officiating crews, late in the season, that he would pay a $5,000 cash bonus to the first official to give Miller a technical.
“He put a bounty on Sean Miller for a technical foul,” the source told FOXSportsArizona.com. “He wanted to emphasize that Miller needed to be disciplined.”
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement Monday acknowledging that Rush made inappropriate comments that referenced rewards for certain actions, but “he made the comments in jest, and the officials in the room realized they were not serious offers.
“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 is in his first season as the director of Pac-12 officials after serving as a consultant to the league since 2007. He spent 32 seasons as an NBA referee before becoming the league’s director of officials in 1998. He retired from the NBA in 2003.
The allegations come in the wake of a disputed and costly technical foul assessed to Miller with 4:37 remaining in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas on March 15. Miller was given the technical, his first of the season, by referee Michael Irving after arguing a double-dribble call against guard Mark Lyons. The ensuing two free throws proved critical in Arizona’s 66-64 loss.
Replays appeared to show that a UCLA player made contact with the ball before Lyons regained possession, meaning there was no violation.
Irving, who did not make the double-dribble call, assessed the technical foul because officials had been told to make sure Miller did not stray from the coaching box in front of the Wildcats’ bench, the source said.
Arizona contacted the Pac-12 office when it heard of the allegations two days later.
“On Sunday, March 17, we first learned of the allegation of the events that occurred during the conference tournament,” Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement. “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.”
Byrne declined further comment when contacted Monday, and Miller was not made available.
Miller was fined $25,000 by the Pac-12 office the following week for confronting a game official after the game had concluded, as well as for acting inappropriately toward a Pac-12 staffer in the hallway of the arena.
At a postgame press conference following the loss, an animated Miller said he did not curse at the officiating crew.
“The reason I got the technical foul is because I said, ‘He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball.’
“They don’t talk to me. If I cuss and I’m out of control and I’ve been warned, shame on me. When I say, ‘He touched the ball, he touched the ball,’ because I thought the two of them could have maybe gotten together and explained that, in fact, he did touch the ball.”