Ed Rush, the Pac-12’s coordinator of officials, offered incentives to the conference’s referees if they targeted Arizona head coach Sean Miller during the Pac-12 conference tournament, CBS Sports reports.
According to CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman, Rush, a former NBA referee, met with Pac-12 officials on Thursday — the day of the conference tournament in Las Vegas — and told the officials in attendance that he would give them $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they ejected Miller from a game or called a technical foul on the coach.
Goodman reports that Rush repeated his offer on Friday, the day of Arizona’s tournament semifinal game against UCLA. Referee Michael Irving called a controversial technical foul on Miller with 4:37 left in the Bruins-Wildcats game for arguing a double dribble call. Arizona lost the game 66-64 and ended up a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Miller went on a memorable rant after the game to complain about the technical foul call.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott defended Rush in a statement to CBS, saying the comments were a joke.
“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. 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.”
Though Scott said the comments were a joke, Goodman’s source says otherwise. The official characterized Rush as a “bully” of whom all the officials are afraid. The source even said Irving calling a technical foul on Miller was very uncharacteristic of him.
Rush was named the Pac-12 coordinator of officials last May. He was an NBA referee for 32 seasons from 1966-1997. From 1998-2003, he was the NBA’s Director of Officiating.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban famously went after Rush following a Mavs loss to the San Antonio Spurs in 2002.
“Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen. His interest is not in the integrity of the game or improving the officiating,” Cuban said at the time.
Cuban was fined $500,000 for his comments.
The Mavs owner took note of the story, sending the following tweet Monday:
Not surprised.. It will get worse.. Ed Rush Pac-12 head of officials investigated for targeting Arizona’s Sean Miller cbsprt.co/Yrsvae
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) April 1, 2013