By now, many of you have heard Pac-12 coordinator of officials Ed Rush said to referees he'd offer $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they hit Arizona men's basketball head coach Sean Miller with a technical foul or eject him during internal meetings at the conference tournament according to a story by CBSSports.com.
Miller was given a technical foul late in the Wildcats' 66-64 loss to UCLA in the semifinals of the tournament on a double dribble call that wasn't a double dribble on replays. Miller received the technical supposedly as he's yelling "he touched the ball", meaning the opponent knocked the ball out of his player's hands, so dribbling should have been allowed again.
The referee, Michael Irving, handed out the technical.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said and then-UCLA coach Ben Howland said there was a pre-game warning regarding sideline behavior and coaches were instructed several times during the contest to remain in their respective boxes in a related story from ESPN.com.
Scott said he does not believe Rush should be fired, saying Rush was joking when he made the offer and that the discussion was that the referees shouldn't be as lenient as they were during the regular season.
Referees talking with a coach saying something like this is usually a joke. It's an understood joke, especially with a member of the media in the room when it was said. I've heard many coaches throughout the state joking with referees before games about taking it "easy on me" or "make it tough on (put opposing coach name here)." The tone is obviously jovial and not meant to be a reality.
However, it's different when a head of officials discusses anything involving the actual attempt of changing a game on purpose behind closed doors; and joking or not, the "offer" — or "bounty" as some have said — made by Rush would count as a chance to undermine the integrity of officials, especially on suspect calls.
Screaming at referees is normal and I've heard times when people have yelled that you are biased for the other team; and that goes to all levels from t-ball (no joke, I heard it by some when my then three-year-old son played for Mullinville) to professional sports (although we do have instant replay to help on some calls at the collegiate and pro levels, and my venture is that the calls are right 75 percent of the time).
Why bring that up? Because when things aren't going their way, most of the time the fans don't blame the players or the coach and the players don't blame themselves or the coaches. They blame the referees.
I've had people come up to me and say "those were bad officials" or "I wonder how much they were paid off to cheat us out of the win." I've heard that here involving the Red Demons and Conquistadors; as I did El Dorado and Augusta when it came to the Wildcats, Orioles, Thunderbirds (Circle High) and the Butler Grizzlies.
I also can say I've never "outted" a referee I thought was cheating. Referees, like players and coaches, can have "bad games" and there are some officials who call differently than what many like, but that's not cheating. There have been a few I really thought of as "hometown referees", but again, that's my opinion and shouldn't be thought of as law.
I never question a call an official has made in public, that's not fair to him or her. If I run into the official later, I would ask off the record, what they saw to make the call. That's not questioning the ability of or challenging that person in their qualifications of being a referee. Most referees in the Jayhawk Conference or where I have written know this of me and I feel I have a great relationship with those officials because you have to give them the benefit of doubt.
Now you have an official in charge of the referees telling them to do something at least "dishonest" and they could get rewarded. How many other coaches could have that problem. I was listening on the radio to Wichita State's Gregg Marshall saying he knew of some referee "bias", but took the high road and didn't name any official.
It seems that this behavior when it comes to this "joke", meant or not, has put referees, umpires and officials in situations they might not deserve and a much closer scrutiny.
John Curtis is sports writer for the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org