Ed Rush’s last decision with the Pac-12 was the correct call.
Rush, at the center of the “bounty” scandal involving Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller, has saved the Pac-12 and commissioner Larry Scott further embarrassment by announcing his resignation Thursday afternoon as the league’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating.
“I would like to thank the Pac-12 for giving me the opportunity to lead a group of officials who are working so hard to make the Pac-12 the best officiated conference in college basketball,” Rush said in a statement released by the conference.
“My first and highest concerns have always been the integrity of the game of basketball and the honor of the craft of officiating. While I am proud of what we have accomplished, my decision to resign reflects my strong desire to see the Pac-12 officiating program continue to grow and thrive.”
It would have been nearly impossible for that to happen under Rush’s watch after Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com broke the story this week that Rush twice told officials at the Pac-12 tournament he was offering $5,000 or a trip to Cancun for anyone who gave Miller a technical foul or threw him out of the game.
Late in a Pac-12 semifinal against UCLA, Miller was indeed slapped with a technical foul in the now-famous “He touched the ball” incident. Scott told ESPN this week that official Michael Irving T’d up Miller for leaving the coaching box after previous warnings.
Still, such a call to make — or not make — is well within the discretion of the official … and everyone has been left to wonder what kind of influence Rush’s comments had on the officiating crew.
Scott said an internal investigation found Rush’s words “completely inappropriate” albeit in jest. Scott — against a wave of national (and local) objection — spent the past 72 hours saying Rush didn’t commit a fireable offense, although he left the door open for further review of Rush’s job status at the end of the school year.
Rush saved Scott the trouble and a couple of months of bad press.
Andy Katz wrote that ESPN talked to number of officials in the room at the time of Rush’s comments about Miller. Wrote Katz:
“Ed Rush doesn’t joke,” one official said. “To say it was a joke is absolutely not true. If he meant it in jest, then he had time to correct it the second day and he didn’t. And the only coach he mentioned was Sean Miller.”
Officials confirmed that Rush went into the meeting before the UCLA-Arizona game and was banging a chair up and down, demanding the officials perform at a higher level. And then, according to the officials, Rush hurled a boxed lunch against the wall after the game, nearly hitting one of the officials in the head.
“It was absolutely a form of bullying,” one official said.
Rush, a longtime NBA official who also served as director of officiating in that league, had held the Pac-12 job since May 2012. He had been a consultant to the league since 2007.
“I want to express my appreciation for the great contribution Ed made to basketball officiating for the conference during his tenure, particularly in the area of training and the cultivation of new officiating talent,” Scott said in a statement. “All of us at the conference thank him for his years of hard work, and we wish him well.”
Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, in radio appearances in Tucson and Phoenix this week, chose his words carefully about the situation, mostly putting the burden on Scott to explain the circumstances.
“You express your very real concerns and go from there,” Byrne told 910-AM in Phoenix on his discussions with the Pac-12.
After Thursday’s announcement, Byrne tweeted: “Although u never want someone to lose their job, this is a good step for the Pac-12 in restoring confidence in the bball officiating program.”
True. Rush’s status and questions about his agenda would have raged again as the 2013-14 season approached. That is why his departure — whether forced or not, and at least a few days too late — was the right thing.
Has anyone yet heard an apology?
The Portland Tribune: Ed Rush on resignation: ‘It had to be done’