Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer
Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer ( PAUL AIKEN )

Ed Rush deserves to be tossed.

The Pac-12 coordinator of basketball officials clearly crossed an ethical line during the conference tournament in Las Vegas.

What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but an anonymous Pac-12 official decided to air some dirty laundry about Rush to CBSSports.com college basketball writer Jeff Goodman.

The official told Goodman that after Arizona's 79-69 victory over Colorado on March 14 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Rush met with a group of referees and offered up $5,000 or a trip to Cancun for giving head coach Sean Miller a technical foul or tossing him from the Wildcats' semifinal game against UCLA.

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

Miller was assessed a technical foul by referee Michael Irving with 4:37 remaining in that game, which the Bruins ended up winning 66-64.

This situation is much worse than a conspiracy theory, something Rush should know all about as a former NBA official.

It appears that Rush's words -- which Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott claims were "made in jest" -- were backed up with a controversial technical foul call that had an impact on the outcome of game played in the gambling capital of the world.


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This may not be a scandal the scale of Tim Donaghy, the disgraced former NBA official who spent nearly a year in federal prison for trying to influence point spreads with his whistle, but it's no laughing matter.

Whether Rush had a personal vendetta against Miller or was just trying to make his employees laugh with an inappropriate joke in the work place, the Pac-12 now has a serious perception problem.

Rush is the Ric Flair of college basketball. His Vince McMahon (Scott) will still conduct a "normal" review of the conference's officials coordinator at the end of the season.

But for now:

"I do not find anything that rises to a fireable offense or a breach of ethics or a breach of the integrity of officiating or the program," Scott told ESPN.com's Andy Katz.

Ironically, CU fans were already questioning the integrity of Pac-12 officiating after the Buffs' Jan. 3 loss to Miller's Wildcats.

Sabatino Chen made a game-winning 3-pointer at the end of regulation to stun then-No. 3 Arizona on the road. After a video review, veteran officials Verne Harris and Randy McCall waved off the basket. CU went on to lose in overtime. Tad Boyle said he was going to be sick to his stomach if it wasn't the right call. Replays show it was the wrong call.

Having the C-Unit chanting "Cancun!" at referees next season isn't going to help the credibility of the Pac-12's men in stripes.

Despite the disturbing CBSSports.com report and the head-scratching events that took place in Tucson, Boyle says CU's new conference is serious about improving the way its games are officiated.

"Ed Rush has done some very good things for our league," Boyle told the Camera on Tuesday before heading to the Final Four in Atlanta. "You hate to see anything like this come to light."

Boyle said Rush has actually held Pac-12 officials more accountable by implementing film study of their calls and grading their overall performance.

Good officials like Chris Rastatter, Joe DeRosa and Tom Eades certainly don't deserve to have their reputations besmirched by this incident. Harris and McCall, who are also among the best at doing a difficult and thankless job, should not have been strangers to the Coors Events Center just because they botched an important call at the McKale Center.

If Scott ultimately decides to reach into his desk for a pink slip or Rush resigns his post, the Pac-12 should consider hiring Scott Thornley, a well-respected official who applied for the job last year, to take over as coordinator of officials.

There is plenty of work to do besides putting out this public relations inferno.

Just like at the top of the basketball standings, there are some really solid officiating teams in the Pac-12, as well as a lack of overall depth and quality.

Rush, or his replacement, must squash the controversy by recruiting and developing better officiating talent.

In other words, do the job as well as Miller does his.

At the Pac-12 basketball media day event last October, I asked Rush about the disparity between foul calls for home teams and road teams in college basketball.

"What are you suggesting, that we're on the take?" he said.

I took Rush's initial response as a tongue-and-cheek remark.

It's not as funny now.

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