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Conclusion of Pac-12 officiating review: No further action needed

Sean Miller

Sean Miller reacts as Michael Irving signals for the technical foul vs. UCLA. Photo by Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12 released its independent report on men’s basketball officiating Sunday, and the big, grand take-away from events surrounding the “He touched the ball!” incident is this:

Uh, not much.

The conclusion of the independent review law firm — which goes by the name Ice Miller, LLP — was that no further action was required.

That shouldn’t be a big surprise.

The Pac-12 already conducted its investigation; the independent review was a further step to establish trust in the system after Ed Rush, the league’s coordinator of men’s basketball officials, resigned in April, after the “bounty” scandal during the conference tournament in March.

You be the judge. You can read the 52-page report, which was released by the Pac-12 CEO Group, here.

“We are appreciative of the effort by the CEO Council to commission an independent review of the issues related to the Conference tournament,” Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement.

“Coach Miller and I have discussed the report, and we are ready to move forward. We remain hopeful this report will lead to improvements in our officiating program. At this time I will have no further comment.”

University of Arizona president Ann Weaver Hart said: “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. 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.”

The review yielded four core conclusions after interviews with 45 people:

* Rush’s comments, made in two meetings, about awarding cash or a vacation to anyone who gave a technical foul to Arizona coach Sean Miller were not offered literally and were not taken as such by the game officials.

According to the report:

“However, the officials present at the meetings understood the Coordinator’s statements as serious expressions of his desire for the officials to focus on head coaches’ bench decorum. Although the Coordinator did not intend to target Arizona’s Head Coach, the context in which the Coordinator’s statements occurred led eight of the fifteen officials present at either meeting to report that the Coordinator was particularly focused on strictly enforcing bench decorum guidelines regarding the Head Coach.”

* Rush’s comments did affect the officiating of bench decorum in the Arizona-UCLA semifinal game of the Pac-12 tournament.

Arizona’s Mark Lyons was called for a double-dribble violation with 4:37 left — which was the incorrect call, because a UCLA player touched the ball, negating double dribble. Miller, in an effort to argue the call, stepped out of the coaches’ box. Arizona had previously been warned about its sideline behavior.

According to the report:

“The official approximately eight feet from Arizona’s bench saw the Head Coach on the court and promptly called a technical foul as the Head Coach stepped back toward the sideline. As the Coordinator (Rush) and an officiating leadership team colleague watched the violation call, they both saw that a UCLA player touched the ball and that Arizona should retain possession.

“While waiting on the first two officials to confer and make the correct call, the Coordinator saw the third official call the technical foul. According to the Coordinator’s colleague, the Coordinator’s immediate reaction was, “Oh, s—. That’s not good,” because the technical foul did not appear warranted. The Coordinator was hopeful that the conferring officials would determine that the ball had been touched by UCLA, award the ball to Arizona, and rescind the technical foul pursuant to the “elastic power of the official.” Instead, both the incorrect double-dribble violation and the technical foul stood.”

The report concluded that, while the official — Michael Irving — could have used better discretion, “under a strict application of the rules, the technical foul on the Head Coach is a defensible, correct call.”

* The Arizona-UCLA game was officiated fairly.

A review of the game found 13 incorrect calls, or no-calls. Six favored the Wildcats, seven benefitted the Bruins.

* The $25,000 fine imposed by the Pac-12 upon Miller were within commissioner Larry Scott’s authority and were reasonable.

And we now know Miller’s favorite curse word.

At the conclusion of the game, Miller stepped out of way to lean into Irving, and, according to his own recollection, spewed “F— you” five or six times. He was still steamed when he entered the hallway to the locker room in a “level 10, chaotic, angry” manner, according to an unnamed Pac-12 junior female staff member.

Miller, according to the report yelled, “That f—— technical with four minutes left, are you f—— kidding me?”

More from the report:

“The Junior Staff Member recalls that when the Head Coach was twelve to fifteen feet away he seemed to pause and make eye contact with the Junior Staff Member and yell, “F— the Pac-12″ and, “You’re a f—— cheap-ass conference.” The Junior Staff Member did not feel physically endangered, but the Junior Staff Member was “very concerned” that the Head Coach might tear down the Pac-12 banner that was positioned in the alcove as a backdrop for interviews.”

Miller said he never noticed the junior staff member, but it was this incident, combined with the on-court post-game profanity toward Irving that formed the basis of the $25,000 fine.

Miller and Byrne argue mitigating factors, specifically that it all stems from a bad call.

According to the report:

“The Athletics Director also acknowledges that the Head Coach’s post-game confrontation with the official was “wrong,” but believes the impropriety of the Head Coach’s conduct is mitigated because the post-game confrontation would not have occurred but for an incorrect violation call and resulting unwarranted technical foul at the 4:37 mark.”

In the end, the independent review found the $25,000 fine to be fair.

In a press conference last month, Miller couldn’t address the investigation directly, but did say:

“One of the things I can comment on … is I haven’t really had the opportunity to express my gratitude at the very highest level for the support that I’ve gotten from Dr. Hart and from Greg Byrne.

“As a basketball coach in a situation like this, not every place would have the incredible support I’ve been fortunate to have. That’s something that is not lost on me. That’s probably the most meaningful thing that’s happened to me since I’ve been the head coach at Arizona.

“Just to watch their undying support and the communication we’ve had … that’s a great feeling to have.”

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