LOS ANGELES — UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero was having dinner with newly hired coach Steve Alford and his wife on Monday night when he noticed a disturbing headline pop up on a TV overlooking their table.
The story in question was a CBSSports.com report that Pac-12 coordinator of officiating Ed Rush told a group of referees he'd reward them with $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they assessed a technical foul to Arizona coach Sean Miller or ejected him. Guerero didn't get to read the full story Tuesday because he was busy showing Alford around campus, but what he did see bothered him.
"I'm very concerned about that whole deal," Guerrero said. "The spotlight is always on officiating. There's always concern about the integrity of the game as it relates to that, and certainly this really puts a black eye on the conference and the conference officiating. Whether it was in jest or it was not in jest, there was a judgment issue that goes into play there. And it was very surprising to me when I heard about it."
An investigation by the Pac-12 into Rush's comments concluded they were made in "jest," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. Scott acknowledged joking about favoring one team over another was "completely inappropriate," but he told ESPN radio that Rush's job is not in jeopardy.
“What we found was that Ed Rush was being very hard on the officials because he didn’t think they were doing the job of containing the coaches; the coaches’ decorum was getting out of control,” Scott told ESPN radio. "[He was] not solely focused on Coach Miller but on several coaches. That started a banter and discussion about ‘What do I have to do to get you guys to enforce the rules? … Do I gotta give you a trip or do I gotta give you money?’”
In the game in question, a Pac-12 semifinal between Arizona and UCLA last month, Guerrero's Bruins actually benefited from the quick whistle against Miller.
A referee gave Miller a technical foul late in Arizona's 66-64 loss when he disputed a double dribble called on Mark Lyons for losing control of the ball before re-gathering possession. Miller correctly asserted UCLA's Jordan Adams knocked the ball away, which would have negated the double dribble call and let Arizona to keep possession up two with 4:37 to play.
Guerrero did not specify whether he thought Rush should be fired, but he made it clear he took the matter very seriously.
"I hope it's all sorted out and Larry does what is appropriate," Guerrero said. "I'm not sure what that is because I don't all the details, but any time you see something like that with officiating and with a potential compromise in integrity, it has to concern you."