Pac-12 coordinator of basketball officials and former NBA referee Ed Rush has been investigated by the conference for comments made about Arizona coach Sean Miller in meetings with Pac-12 referees according to a report by CBSSports.com.
According to the story, "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 (Miller)," the official told CBSSports.com. "He made that perfectly clear."
With 4:37 left in the semifinal against UCLA at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, referee Michael Irving - who CBSSports.com's sources confirmed was in the room on Friday with Rush - hit Miller with a controversial technical after arguing a double-dribble call on Arizona point guard Mark Lyons.
The Bruins ended up winning the game 66-64. The Wildcats were favored by four points at most sportsbooks and were up as high as -4.5 before being bet down to -3.5 at tipoff. Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager at the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas, doesn't recall anything different about that game other than the hordes of Arizona backers in town for the Pac-12 tournament.
"Arizona had a huge following that week and we took a lot of bets on them because they were all staying over at the (MGM Grand) hotel," Stoneback told Covers. "It was huge over there. It was like March Madness in their book that week."
The total for that Pac-12 semifinal closed at 142.5 points, finishing under the number.
"Based on the review," said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in a statement to CBSSports.com, "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.
"Following our review," the statement continues, "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."
"The reason I got the technical foul is because I said, '(Lyons) touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball,'" Miller said after the loss.
Miller was fined $25,000 by the Pac-12.
"They don't talk to me," Miller said of the officials after the game. "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."
CBSSports.com's source said the technical foul call was out of character for Irving.
"That's not Michael (Irving)'s mentality as a ref," said the source, who had requested anonymity. "He's a really good ref and manages situations without using technicals. It was absolutely because of what was said in the meeting. There's no doubt in my mind. It's a bad position to be put in.
"As a basketball referee, it's a horrible position to be put in by your supervisor," he continued. "If you don't do anything, you probably won't get any good games down the road -- or you may not get any games at all. That leaves us in a tough spot."
The source also said that Rush "just bullies everyone. That was his whole tenor of the meeting on Friday. We're all afraid of him. He's the most respected basketball officiating person on the West Coast and he's been given all the juice."
Rush was a longtime NBA official, who has been the supervisor of officials for the Pac-12 since 2012.
"Larry's made a statement," Rush said to CBSSports.com, "I'm in concert with what he said. We're going to move on from there."