|ESPN.com: Men's College Basketball||[Print without images]|
The Pac-12 on Sunday night released its monthlong independent investigation into the officiating issues that occurred at the Pac-12 tournament and ultimately led to the resignation of Pac-12 coordinator of officials Ed Rush.
The investigation, led by Stu Brown of the Indianapolis legal firm Ice Miller, was detailed but didn't suggest any further sanctions for anyone involved in the case.
The investigation corroborated the wide spectrum of views on Rush by officials as well as the $25,000 fine by the Pac-12 levied against Arizona coach Sean Miller. The investigation showed Miller used profane language in the hallway about the Pac-12. Miller wasn't directing his anger at a junior-level Pac-12 administrator, but the person was in the line of the verbal fire. Miller was angry over receiving a decisive technical foul in a conference tournament semifinal loss to UCLA.
Brown's investigation supported Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott's stance that he issued the fine on Miller before he knew of the alleged "bounty" that Rush admittedly joked to officials about if bench decorum wasn't enforced.
The Pac-12's officiating program has endured a swarm of public criticism since the incident became public and questions about whether Rush was joking persisted. Some reports also accused Rush of creating a culture of bullying.
The investigation, which included interviews with 42 individuals (including this reporter), showed that Scott issued the penalty in advance and had the right to do so based on Miller "cussing" out the Pac-12 administrator for the officiating in the game and the technical he was issued based on an argument that resulted from a double-dribble call.
Scott had started communication of levying the fine on March 16, and although he was briefly aware earlier on March 17 about the Rush story, he continued to hand out the fine later that night as it was deemed unrelated.
Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne was told on March 18 of the fine by official memo, and on March 24 he tried to get Scott to reduce it based on the information first reported by CBS Sports of the purported bounty offer by Rush. Scott declined to reduce the penalty on March 26, and on March 29, it was paid by Miller, who also sent a letter of apology to the Pac-12 official for his use of strong language and his behavior.
"Coach Miller and I have discussed the report, and we are ready to move forward," Byrne said. "We remain hopeful this report will lead to improvements in our officiating program. At this time I will have no further comment."
Meanwhile, the investigation confirmed Rush did say he would offer trips and cash for officials who enforced the bench decorum rule. The investigation ruled the technical likely wouldn't have been called had Rush not told the officials to enforce the rule, but stopped short of saying there was any target on Miller. The investigation cleared the officials working the UCLA-Arizona game of not officiating with integrity.
The officials interviewed offered up varying opinions on Rush's demeanor in the meetings with them during the Pac-12 tournament. Some said he was calm while others said he was "animated, worked up, pretty aggressive and out of control." The investigation concluded that officials weren't taking his words literally.
The Pac-12 has yet to hire a replacement for Rush. The findings of the investigation were released at the Pac-12 board of directors meeting in Utah this weekend.
According to sources, the investigation and the subsequent issue has strained the relationship between Byrne, Miller and Scott.
"I am pleased the report by the Ice Miller Collegiate Sports Practice will result in positive change to the Pac-12's oversight of its officiating program," Arizona president Ann Weaver Hart said. "The conference's commitment to maintain integrity and improve the quality of officiating was important to the executive committee. I look forward to seeing major changes in the way in which the Pac-12 organizes and oversees basketball officiating."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.