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Pac-12 head of officials investigated for targeting Arizona's Sean Miller

By Jeff Goodman | College Basketball Insider

Pac-12 coordinator of basketball officials and former NBA referee Ed Rush has been investigated by the Pac-12 for comments made about Arizona coach Sean Miller in meetings that included several Pac-12 referees.

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Rush, according to a source within the Pac-12 officiating group, told a group of referees on the Thursday of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas that he would give them $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they either "rang him up" or "ran him," meaning hit Miller with a technical or toss him out of the game. Rush then reiterated during a Friday morning meeting, according to one referee in attendance, that officials should take similar action against Miller if he did anything on Friday in the Pac-12 semifinals against UCLA.

"He was emphatic about not dealing with him (Miller)," the ref told CBSSports.com. "He made that perfectly clear."

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement to CBSSports.com:

"Based on the review, we have concluded that while Rush made inappropriate comments that he now regrets during internal meetings that referenced rewards, he made the comments in jest and the officials in the room realized they were not serious offers," Scott told CBSSports.com. "Following our review, we have discussed the matter with Rush, taken steps to ensure it does not happen again, and communicated our findings to all of our officials."

Referee Michael Irving -- who sources confirmed was in the room with Rush on Friday -- hit Miller with a controversial technical with 4:37 left in the Pac-12 semifinals against UCLA. The Bruins wound up winning the game, 66-64. Miller was upset about a double-dribble call on Arizona point guard Mark Lyons, arguing that a UCLA player had gotten his hand on the ball before Lyons picked it up.

Miller later claimed he did not direct any profanities at Irving or any of the other officials at the time. The technical was his first of the season.

“The reason I got the technical foul is because I said, ‘He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball,'" Miller said immediately after the loss. Miller was reprimanded by the Pac-12 and fined $25,000 by the league for confronting a game official after the game had concluded, as well as for acting inappropriately toward a Pac-12 staffer in the hallway of the arena.

"They don't talk to me," he said of the officials. "If I cuss and I'm out of control and I've been warned, shame on me. When I say, 'He touched the ball, he touched the ball' because I thought the two of them could have maybe gotten together and explained that, in fact, he did touch the ball."

The source said the technical foul call was out of character for Irving.

"That's not Michael (Irving)'s mentality as a ref," said the source, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing assignments within the Pac-12. "He's a really good ref and manages situations without using technicals. It was absolutely because of what was said in the meeting. There's no doubt in my mind. It's a bad position to be put in."

"As a basketball referee, it's a horrible position to be put in by your supervisor," he continued. "If you don't do anything, you probably won't get any good games down the road -- or you may not get any games at all. That leaves us in a tough spot."

Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne issued this statement Monday night:

"On Sunday, March 17, we first learned of the allegation of the events that occurred during the Conference Tournament. Due to the serious implications, we immediately shared our concerns with Commissioner Scott and the Conference office. We know that an investigation was held and any further issue is a matter for the Pac-12 office."

Rush was a longtime NBA official who was also the NBA's director of officiating from 1998-2003. He replaced Bill McCabe as the Pac-12's supervisor of officials in 2012, after McCabe retired.

"He's a bully," the referee said of Rush. "He just bullies everyone. That was his whole tenor of the meeting on Friday. We're all afraid of him. He's the most respected basketball officiating person on the West Coast and he's been given all the juice."

Ed Rush did not wish to comment further, telling CBSSports.com, "Larry's made a statement. I'm in concert with what he said. We're going to move on from there."

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