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The Daily Wildcat

 

For the sake of the Pac-12’s integrity, Ed Rush needs to be fired

For+the+sake+of+the+Pac-12s+integrity%2C+Ed+Rush+needs+to+be+fired
Tyler Besh

He made the comments in jest. He made the comments in jest.

He made the comments in jest.

It doesn’t quite rattle off the tongue like head coach Sean Miller’s “He touched the ball!” soliloquy from a few weeks ago, but the two are interchangeable.

Or maybe not, according to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

Ed Rush, the Pac-12’s coordinator of basketball officials, has come under fire in the last few days after a CBS Sports article claimed that a few weeks ago, Rush offered referees $5,000 or a trip to Cancun in exchange for an ejection or technical foul of Miller in the Pac-12 tournament.

From billionaire Mark Cuban to ESPN’s Jay Bilas to every red-blooded Tucson resident, people nationwide are calling for Rush’s head.

Miller received his first technical foul of the year in the Pac-12 Tournament against UCLA on March 15, after which the Bruins converted the two free throws and the Wildcats were eliminated from the tournament in a 66-64 loss. Those two points made all the difference, and Miller more than expressed his frustration.

Miller was fined $25,000 for his post-game antics — not for his press conference, but rather for confronting an official shortly after the game and for “acting inappropriately” toward a conference staff member later.

Scott told ESPN Radio on Tuesday that the Miller fine and the Rush’s bounty are separate situations, and that the fine still stands. He also said Rush’s comments were made “in jest,” so they aren’t a “fireable offense.”

Scott is far from an idiot — he’s made millions of dollars for the Pac-12 through expansion and the television network — but his stance on Rush is just plain idiotic.

Rush decides which games each referee officiates, and the bigger the game, the more money there is to be earned. Meaning if Rush assigns a referee to a Pac-12 Tournament or NCAA Tournament game, he’d make more money than he would in a regular season game.

Plus, in the CBS Sports article, a unnamed source close to the situation described Rush as a “bully.”

So I have a hard time believing that, joke or not, the officials won’t take their boss’ remarks to heart.

That’s like asking a TSA agent to disregard a joke about carrying a gun onto an airplane.

They wouldn’t let it slide. They wouldn’t pass it off as “jest.”

Rush needs to be fired, yesterday.

Whether the referee gave Miller a technical because of a potential Cancun trip or not is irrelevant. If Rush isn’t fired, the integrity of Pac-12 officials will be in question until Scott does make such a decision.

With Rush in charge, Pac-12 basketball fans — particularly Arizona ones — will forever question the integrity of dubious foul-calls.

If there was any doubt that Rush offered up this bounty, then Scott’s hesitance to dismiss Rush might be justifiable. But in his (failed) parade of national media appearances aimed at rectifying the national perception of Rush and the Pac-12, Scott already admitted that the comments did happen.

ESPN’s Andy Katz tweeted on Tuesday that “A high-level non-Pac-12 coach said he won’t schedule Pac-12 schools in non-conference while Ed Rush is coordinator of officials. No trust.”

With Scott in the fold, the Pac-12 was slowly rising back into national prominence, and Arizona is at the center of that with its passionate fan base and increasingly talented roster, boosted by the Tuesday commitment of five-star forward Aaron Gordon.

If Scott keeps Rush employed with the Pac-12, any goodwill built up will dissipate when the conference becomes the laughingstock of college basketball.

If Rush’s comments aren’t a fireable offense, and end in no more than a slap on the wrist, then Miller’s post-game antics shouldn’t be a fineable offense, either.

“Nothing is more important to me than the credibility of our program,” Scott told ESPN.

Prove it.

— Zack Rosenblatt is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @ZackBlatt.

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