The Pac-12 announced today that it would be hiring independent experts to review its officiating program. The review will apparently be of the Ed Rush scandal that arose out of Sean Miller’s technical foul during the UCLA game at the Pac-12 tournament as well of the entire officiating program.
This can only serve to further undermine Larry Scott’s power as Pac-12 commissioner. Scott, who has backed Ed Rush and his comments at every step of this process, has repeatedly given votes of confidence to the officiating program. Clearly, there are people within the Pac-12, be it presidents, athletic directors, or other executives in the Pac-12 itself, who disagree and who have pushed for a review of officiating. Between botching this scandal and the still troubling DirecTV mess, Scott has had it rough and has lost a lot of the goodwill since the Pac-10 expanded.
We should also wonder what the league hopes to get out of such a review. If the league comes back finding that no change is necessary, can we really trust that, given the fact that Scott was so quick and eager to back up his beleaguered lieutenant? And if no change is necessary, is the Pac-12 (along with Scott’s failure to act) encouraging further such behavior?
The only correct answer is a finding that some amount of overhaul is necessary. After all, very few Pac-12 referees made it very far in this year’s NCAA tournament, which rewards referees in the same way winning teams are rewarded: advancement to the next round.
Pac-12 fans have pointed out problems with the referees for some time. It isn’t just that they make bad calls. Fans are myopic on this topic when it comes to their own teams, but refs make bad calls, and that is just a part of the game, for better or for worse. But Pac-12 referees fail to prepare teams adequately for what they will see in the NCAA tournament. NCAA tournament games are called much differently than Pac-12 games. So when teams enter the tournament, they have to learn to adapt or face a quick exit. Scott needs to find a way to have Pac-12 referees call games like their colleagues do in other leagues.
Given Scott’s recent track record, though, we should not hold our collective breath for any meaningful change.