The technical foul awarded to Arizona coach Sean Miller with 4:37 left in their Pac-12 Tournament loss to UCLA wasn’t even the most dubious officiating of Championship week, but it played a part in keeping Arizona from a trip to the Pac-12 title game. It also inspired Miller’s emotional postgame rant.
According to CBS Sports’ college basketball insider Jeff Goodman, a technical foul assessed against Miller may Eddie Rush, the head of Pac-12 officials, his job.
Rush, according to 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 him (Miller)," the ref told CBSSports.com. "He made that perfectly clear."
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement to CBSSports.com:
"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 told CBSSports.com. "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."
Referee Michael Irving — who sources confirmed was in the room with Rush on Friday — hit Miller with a controversial technical with 4:37 left in the Pac-12 semifinals against UCLA. The Bruins wound up winning the game, 66-64. Miller was upset about a double-dribble call on Arizona point guard Mark Lyons, arguing that a UCLA player had gotten his hand on the ball before Lyons picked it up.
From all accounts, Irving appears to be a trustworthy officials, but Rush’s admission puts more than just Irving under the microscope.
Ultimately, this raises more questions about what role the personal feelings officials have about coaches play into their officiating. Incidents like these only add to the perception that sports are fixed and officials are nothing more than goons.
It’s may not be true, but by not firing Rush, Scott is opening himself up to criticism and accusations of rampant corruption within the conference's officiating. Especially because his call benfitted UCLA, the conference's flagship program.
Here's a radical solution. If the level of vitriol between officials and coaches begins to bubble under the surface, maybe the NCAA should adopt NHL fighting etiquette. Loser has to leave the floor. That way, personal animosity doesn't spill into afficiating decisions.
There’s one coach Rush won’t T up though. He is married to legendary women’s basketball coach Cathy Rush.