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Berry Tramel

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Pac-12 basketball mess: Larry Scott part of the problem

by Berry Tramel Modified: April 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm •  Published: April 2, 2013

Pac-12 officiating is the biggest collegiate sports story of the week – and we’re not even talking football. The Pac-12 mess in which supervisor of officials Ed Rush put out a bounty on Arizona coach Sean Miller (CBS sports’ sources’ version) or made a poorly-timed joke (Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s version) has brought more discussion to the question of college hoops officiating. You can read Jeff Goodman’s story here.

The debate seems to center on whether Rush should be fired, for telling his officials during the Pac-12 Tournament that anyone who “rang up” Miller or “ran him,” meaning a technical foul or ejection, would get $5,000 or a trip to Cancun.

The debate is silly. Of course Rush should be fired. Even if he was joking. He has wounded the integrity of not just Pac-12 basketball, or college basketball, but all levels of basketball. A judge who jokes about sentencing or a certain defendant cannot be allowed to stay on the case. Same with Rush. Joke or no joke.

The outrage here is not Ed Rush. The outrage is the Pac-12’s response. Scott has declared that his investigation found Rush was not serious, and therefore his words are not a firing offense. That’s nonsense. Rush has called into question the validity of the games we watch.

No sport is better than the legitimacy of its outcomes. That’s why betting is such an enemy of sports. Why any officiating indiscretion has to be treated with immediate and somber response.

Fire Rush? I’d fire his supervisor. I can’t tell from the Pac-12’s staff directory who is in charge of basketball, the way John Underwood oversees basketball for the Big 12. But whoever that person is needs to go, just as a sign that the Pac-12 is totally committed to fair play.

Scott’s response doesn’t indicate that his league understands the seriousness of Rush’s actions.

To review, Rush made his comments in an officials meeting before the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal between Arizona and UCLA. Later that day, Miller received his first technical foul of the season.

Some have asked how Arizona can ever trust Pac-12 officiating again, if Rush keeps his job. Great point. Here’s another good point: how can any school trust the officiating. If a call goes for Arizona, the natural inclination for the opposition to think, the Pac-12 is bending over backward to appease the Wildcats.

It’s a total mess. Caused by a reckless leader who is either abusing his authority or doesn’t understand the responsibility.

Scott appeared on ESPN radio Tuesday and said Rush was just being hard on his officials for not disciplining coaches enough. Said Rush was trying to “shock” his officials into being more firm with coaches’ deportment.

Sign me up for that. Coaches act like fools on the sidelines and should be “run” or “rung up” more often. But rewards to officials for blowing the whistle on a certain coach? That’s taboo. That has no place in the game.

Neither does Ed Rush. Or anyone who stands with him.

 

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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