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Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Pac-12 and the state of its officiating


At the annual league meetings last week, the Pac-12 basketball coaches didn't dwell on the turbulence created by Ed Rush's style as coordinator of officials or the new independent investigation into how Rush handled the Pac-12 tournament and the ensuing inquiry by the league office.

Instead, the coaches who gathered in Phoenix looked forward, hoping the conference will find someone who can secure high-profile officials.

According to a number of coaches who were in the room, the overall sentiment was that the league needs more elite officials.

"We expressed a sense of urgency,'' Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. "Officials are starting to contract for their schedules and commitments with different leagues pretty early. We want someone who is well-liked, who is a good magnet for top officials and that can run the program effectively.''

A month ago, Rush resigned after one season on the job. He had replaced Bill McCabe a year ago, but only after the Pac-12 coaches met, meaning this was the second straight year the coaches were meeting without knowing who would lead the officials.

Rush's resignation came on the heels of a CBSsports.com report that Rush told officials at the Pac-12 tournament they would get inducements like a trip to Mexico or cash for carrying out the rule of bench decorum, including giving a technical to Arizona coach Sean Miller. Rush later told ESPN.com that he was joking and denied all charges made by officials in the meeting that he was ruling by intimidation. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott called Rush's actions inappropriate but said his actions didn't constitute a fireable offense.

But then he resigned on April 4. Rush had been an NBA official for 32 years prior to taking the job with the Pac-12.

The Pac-12 conducted its own investigation and talked to a number of officials, but since Rush's resignation, the league office decided to hire an outside counsel to look into the matter. The Pac-12 hired the Indianapolis based law-firm Ice Miller and its lead NCAA-case attorney Stu Brown to investigate the matter. Brown is conducting interviews and has to report back to the Pac-12 CEOs by June.

When contacted, Brown said he couldn't comment. Neither could Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne.

The coaches said there was some talk about the Rush situation at last week's meetings, but the majority of the agenda was about finding the right person to lead the conference's officials.

There was some who suggested to push for long-time West Coast official Scott Thornley to lead the conference.

The key, more than anything, is to figure out a way to get top referees to come west even if they work some of the other higher-profile leagues east of the Mississippi.

"The general tone is to attract more lead officials,'' Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "I don't care what league you're talking about it, it's the same guys on the same nights. And because of our geographic location, it makes it challenging. We want to get someone who can attract more quality to work our league. The ones we have are very good.''

The coaches did discuss the physicality of the sport but acknowledge that's more of a national discussion not limited to the Pac-12. The league's chore for now is to put the officiating controversy behind it and ensure the conference can latch onto a long-term solution for the current mess.