Larry Scott’s first gaffe as Pac-12 commissioner — and it’s a big one

Apr 2, 2013, 5:37 PM | Updated: 5:43 pm

If you know anything about me, you know I’m not a fan of the Arizona Wildcats — in any sport.

But also, I can recognize when something stinks, and well, after a report that surfaced Monday, I’m holding my nose.

Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports broke a story that unearthed an investigation of Pac-12 head of basketball officials Ed Rush for “targeting” Arizona head coach Sean Miller during the conference tournament in Las Vegas last month.

The article details Rush’s instructions to Pac-12 officials to either eject or call technical fouls on Miller. Officials who did would be rewarded with $5,000 or a trip to Cancun, Mexico.

Which brings us to the Wildcats’ Pac-12 semifinal loss to UCLA. With just over four minutes to go in the game, Miller was called for an odd technical foul after arguing a double-dribble call on Arizona guard Mark Lyons. The ‘Cats were up by two at the time — UCLA freshman Jordan Adams made both free throws to tie the score. The Bruins went on to win the game 66-64.

After the game, Miller made national news with his response at a press conference in which he explained that he never cursed, he just repeated the phrase “he touched the ball.” Miller also stated during the presser that it was his first technical foul of the season. Miller was also fined by the conference for his conduct following the game.

With 4:37 left in the game at the time of the curious call, it’s hard to say that those two technical free throws were the absolute difference in the game — but you can make the argument. Arizona did lose by two, after all.

In the hours following the release of Goodman’s report, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott — a man who has done nearly everything right during his four years on the job — released the following statement:

I can confirm that following the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, we received a complaint that Pac-12 Coordinator of Officials Ed Rush offered game officials inappropriate incentives for being stricter with Pac-12 coaches.

I consider the integrity of our officiating program to be of the highest importance and immediately ordered a review of the matter.

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.

Sorry Larry, the slate is no longer clean.

The commissioner’s response equates to “everyone calm down, he was joking.” Apparently, not every official in the room realized Rush’s offer wasn’t serious — otherwise, why would there be a complaint?

Michael Irving is the official that t’d Miller up. Has anyone checked his bank account? Hell, he could be on the beach in Cancun sipping a drink with an umbrella in it right now!

Scott completely dropped the ball with his response. To dismiss such a serious charge that potentially undermines the legitimacy of your conference’s second-biggest money maker is foolish. How about something like “the accusation against Ed Rush is a serious charge and we are conducting an investigation to get to the bottom of what transpired in Las Vegas?”

Rush should be fired immediately. The commissioner acknowledged that Rush said the words; how they were construed by those listening is immaterial. This should be the icing on the cake — anybody who has watched Pac-12 basketball in the last few years knows that conference officials are pretty inept at their jobs anyway (remember the end of the Colorado-Arizona game?)

As I wrote last week, I enjoy watching Arizona lose. But at least those losses should be fair and square.

This stinks…not only for Arizona, but for fans of sports everywhere.

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