by David Mendez
You might remember the saga of Sean Miller's March 15 technical foul against UCLA, which we're inartfully calling "He Touched the Ball"-Gate.
That late-game technical gave UCLA two free-throws, which ended up making the difference in UA's 66-64 loss.
We noted that the NCAA was going to look into the matter once reports surfaced that the PAC-12 head of officiating, Ed Rush has a hate-boner for Miller, offering a bounty for hitting the Wildcats' coach with a technical:
Though the offer to give $5,000 or a trip to Cancun for any referee who T'd up or ejected Miller from the Pac-12 tourney was meant as a 'joke,' that didn't stop one official from issuing a technical simply because Miller mentioned that #HeTouchedTheBall.
Rush resigned from his post, the investigation happened anyway, and now, we get this, by way of Deadspin:
First, Ice Miller [the law firm hired to review the situation] determined that Rush's "so-called 'bounty' statements were neither offered nor taken literally." Why it's necessary to point out that something that was never offered was also not taken literally is something someone else can investigate. The report does note that at least half the officials felt from the tone of Rush's pre-game statements that Sean Miller was being specifically targeted for enforcement of bench-decorum rules. Which leads to the second finding.
Rush's pre-game statements affected the officiating of bench decorum during the UCLA-Arizona game. Since the officials were hyper-aware of the emphasis on bench decorum, Sean Miller was assessed a technical foul for conduct that, but for Ed Rush's pre-game emphasis (which, again, specifically singled out Miller), likely would not have resulted in a technical foul. Got all that? It gets better.
Ice Miller then determined that even though Sean Miller received a technical foul for conduct that ordinarily would not have resulted in a technical foul but for Ed Rush's specific emphasis on both the conduct and Miller, the integrity of the UCLA-Arizona game was preserved. "The officials did not demonstrate favoritism toward either team or either head coach."
So, to summarize, the bounty wasn't literally offered, but because of Rush's specifically non-specific care to note Miller, Miller got a technical — but that the game wasn't really affected by this.
Whatever. Season's over, Rush is gone, and Miller still has a job and a rallying cry for future years. Go Cats.
If you're interested in the PAC-12 report itself, head here.