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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Independent officiating review ‘brings closure’ to Miller, Rush saga

Kyle Wasson
Kyle Wasson / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UA men’s basketball team traveled to Las Vegas, March 13-16, for the 2012-13 Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. Although the Wildcats won their first matchup against Colorado, they fell to UCLA in the semi-finals for the third time this season.

After the Pac-12 CEO Group released the results of the independent basketball officiating review done by the law firm Ice Miller, finding that no further disciplinary actions were needed, the final chapter of the bizarre “He touched the ball” fiasco came to a close.

The independent review by Ice Miller came after an internal investigation by the conference that resulted in the resignation of Pac-12 head of officials Ed Rush. His departure came from his comment that he would give $5,000 or a trip to Cancun to any official that would call a technical foul on head coach Sean Miller during the Pac-12 tournament.

The Ice Miller report confirmed the Pac-12’s findings that Rush’s comments were made in jest. The report said the bounty statements “were neither offered nor taken literally” but they did “affect the officiating of bench decorum” during the Arizona-UCLA semifinal in the Pac-12 tournament.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a teleconference call Monday that more specifics are still being worked out now that the full details of the Ice Miller report have been released. He added that the conference will announce details on the “restructuring of our men’s basketball officiating program” in the near future.

However, further disciplinary actions will not be made. Instead, the Pac-12 will simply review some of the “lessons learned from this process,” Scott said.

“The relationship of our schools and our coaches is of great importance,” he said. “By having an independent reviewer come in and give their objective analysis of the situation, it was my hope and expectation that [the findings will] turn the chapter and put the issues that happened in Las Vegas behind us and allow us to start fresh.”

Pac-12 CEO Group chairman Edward Ray, who is also Oregon State University’s president, said his group, which requested the independent review, accepted the Ice Miller report and determined that the independent review “brings closure to the matter.”

UA President Ann Weaver Hart, a member of the Pac-12 CEO Group, echoed Ray’s statements in a press release.

“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,” Hart said. “The Conference’s commitment to maintain integrity and improve the quality of officiating was important to the executive committee.”

While Rush’s comments came beforehand, the controversy surfaced in the Pac-12 tournament semifinal between Arizona and UCLA.

With the Wildcats leading 56-54, an official whistled guard Mark Lyons for a double-dribble violation with 4:37 remaining in the game. Miller responded by yelling from the sidelines that the defender “touched the ball” and was hit with a technical foul, even though replays showed that Miller was correct. UCLA’s Jordan Adams hit both free throws to tie the game and the Bruins eventually won 66-64.

In addition to the infamous press conference, Miller was fined $25,000 for his postgame actions. After the final horn sounded, Miller walked toward referee Michael Irving, who called the technical, and “cussed at him” several times, according to the Ice Miller report. The Arizona head coach then yelled in the hallway, as he made his way to the locker room while a Pac-12 Network junior staff member was nearby.

The fine given to Miller was significantly larger than any other fines handed out to coaches that season, and the report said it was “unprecedented compared to previous disciplinary sanctions.” However, the report added that the fines were within Scott’s authority and that the sanctions were “reasonable.”

“We are appreciative of the effort by the CEO Council to commission an independent review of the issues related to the Conference tournament,” Athletic Director Greg Byrne said in a press release. “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.”

Byrne added that he will make no further comments on the matter.

While the controversy was already in full swing, tensions between the UA athletic department and the Pac-12 escalated, as shown by several emails obtained by USA Today in late April.

Once Miller and Byrne discovered the bounty comments by Rush, Byrne emailed Scott asking him to waive the fine, according to the USA Today report. The commissioner said he would, if three conditions were met: Miller would apologize to the junior staff member, that he would meet with Rush and Scott and the UA athletic department would work with Miller on his conduct. He refused, but did formally apologize to the staffer.

Though, finally with the independent review completed and Rush gone, the controversy seems to be at an end. Scott said it is time to look forward, not in the review mirror, and he also plans on rebuilding the relationship with Miller.

“We’re looking forward to spending time with [Miller] before the season and making sure he has the time to engage with the new leadership of our basketball officiating program once that’s established,” Scott said. “I’ve got no question or concern about the great relationship we’re going to have going forward.”

In a press conference earlier in May, Miller would not comment on the ongoing Ice Miller report but did say he had the highest level of gratitude for the “support of Dr. Hart and from Greg Byrne” during the process. Monday night he tweeted similar gratitude to Hart, Byrne and Wildcat fans.

“For a basketball coach who gets in a situation like this, not every place would have the incredible support with which I’ve been fortunate to have,” Miller said in the press conference.

“It’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 that we had, especially Dr. Hart who just came on board here recently. It’s a great feeling to have.”

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