March 15, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott addresses the media in a press conference before the semifinal round of the Pac 12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Ed Rush, the Pac-12 coordinator of officials who offered a bounty to any referee who gave Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller a technical foul during the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, resigned Thursday. Rush’s outgoing statement included the following quote: “My first and highest concerns have always been the integrity of the game of basketball and the honor of the craft of officiating.”
Well, that isn’t really true or else Rush wouldn’t need to resign and there wouldn’t have been a scandal. If Rush’s “first and highest concerns” were integrity and honor, he wouldn’t have allowed even the appearance of impropriety to infect an already low public opinion of the state of Pac-12 basketball refereeing. And based on what has been coming out since the scandal broke, it sounds like a great deal of the current Pac-12 refereeing corps would have quit if Rush did not resign first, owing to his bullying.
Rush is gone, and he should be gone. The question is what this scandal has done to Larry Scott. From a public relations standpoint, Scott’s response has been laughable at best. Pac-12 fans should be worried a bit about Scott’s performance at this point. Let’s keep in mind that one official said that if Rush would not have been joking when he made that statement. Scott’s slap on the wrist before Ed Rush’s resignation is not unlike Rutgers simply slapping Mike Rice on the wrist before public sentiment took hold and required his firing. People are calling for Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti’s head, why not Larry Scott’s?
Yes, the Pac-12 has improved in certain ways. Moving the tournament to Vegas was a massive success. The Pac-12 Network is also massive success on one hand, but on the other, Scott has been in a stalemate with DirecTV over fees, and thus, a great deal of fans in Pac-12 markets (and elsewhere) have never seen a second of a game on the Pac-12 network in their own homes (or anywhere, given how many bars and restaurants carry DirecTV). Scott doesn’t seem to have a sense of Pac-12 tradition, as there is a chance that in-conference basketball games will be played on every day of the week next year. But the new schedule seems to have been a hit this year, with Pac-12 basketball always available.
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Look, one could say that Scott was simply allowing Rush to save face. But why allow Rush to save face? He did nothing to deserve a good end given the loss of talent in the ranks, the Sean Miller scandal, and Rush’s inability to put together top teams for the conference tournament (many of the top Pac-12 officials ditched Rush and the conference and refereed Mountain West Conference tournament games instead). Scott hand-picked Rush, though. He sat on the story until it became public, and in the end, Scott still couldn’t get rid of his own mistake, thinking it would have been okay if Rush was merely joking. Scott was going to protect his own guy, no matter if it caused the country to question the Pac-12’s integrity.
Larry Scott is trending down, and not just in the eyes of Arizona Wildcats fans, who rightly took an affront to Scott’s failure to protect the product on the court. He even still seems like he still wants to defend Rush, allowing him to resign only because of public sentiment. What can we say about Scott’s judgment at this point? Nothing good.