Pac-12 Officials, Arizona Basketball, and the NCAA

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As my hometown Orange prepare for a game against Michigan in the Final Four, a somewhat compelling story was released by CBS Sports regarding referee Ed Rush and Arizona head coach Sean Miller. So far, the scope of the story is very narrow, but the NCAA should be keeping a very close eye on how it develops.

Before I go too far into this story, I would like to introduce the cast of characters and the plot. Ed Rush is a "Pac-12" referee, and I use quotes because conferences technically do not have referees but often times will rely on the same groups. Larry Scott is the Pac-12 commissioner, and issued a couple of controversial comments regarding the investigation into Ed Rush's comments and actions from a game that happened earlier this year. Sean Miller is the Arizona basketball head coach, who received his first and only technical foul of the season and was later fined $25,000 related to the conduct he had with the officials.

The story, which can be read here, should be a much bigger deal, in my opinion. Although I fully admit that I am now entering into crazy conspiracy theorist territory, I think that may help get the point across as to how important the decisions being made are. Anonymous referees that were the basis for the comments about this story basically said that Ed Rush would pay $5,000 if any of them "rang up" or "ran" Sean Miller from the game in the Pac-12 tournament against UCLA. As previously mentioned, Miller did indeed get a technical foul in that game, and arguably it cost Arizona the game. At the very least, it altered it.

And that's precisely why it is such a big deal. Larry Scott's general opinion of the matter is that it was a joke and that it should not have been or be taken seriously. As a college basketball fan of a completely unrelated team, I can't help but shake my head and hope that there is someone left in college basketball, the Pac-12 offices, or the NCAA that has some kind of common sense.

As it stands right now, it's entirely conceivable that a game may have been played in 2013 that was fixed. And this was a game between two juggernauts in the college basketball world, Arizona and UCLA. It didn't happen in a low major conference by a rogue player missing a few free throws. It was a seasoned referee that has held authority over others as an NBA director of officiating. Whether it was a joke or not by Ed Rush, it was a statement that could have clear implications in regards to match fixing when you offer $5,000 to someone to make a call in a game. Perhaps fittingly, the game was played in Las Vegas. It's unlikely that anyone took Rush up on his $5,000 offer, but it's entirely possible a fellow referee could place a bet on a team knowing that he can alter the outcome and the people that are supposed to prosecute him will instead defend him.

Right now, it seems unlikely that either Larry Scott or the NCAA will investigate any further and even more unlikely that any termination is forthcoming. That's the worst part, those expected to be the most vigilant against illegal activity are the ones actively defending the referee's actions. It's a case that should have the NCAA worried sick about match fixing, especially when you consider the fact that the NCAA won't even allow events to take place in states with sports betting. Not only that, the NCAA actively campaigns against the state of New Jersey to keep the state from allowing sports betting in their casinos.

As always, the fans are the ones to lose. Fans of both UCLA and Arizona are forced to accept an outcome that they wish they didn't have to. Fans of the rest of the Pac-12 teams are left to wonder if they have ever been involved in a game that was altered by referees agendas, such as the highly controversial Colorado/Arizona game that happened to be decided by the referees. The same fans that keep the NCAA afloat should now be wondering who really is in charge. I'm just wondering who will step up and ensure that the sport I love most, college basketball, isn't destroyed from within.

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