I caught up with Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott earlier this week to amplify a couple of issues, one of which has gone unnoticed in the Ed Rush/basketball officiating controversy.
You know by now that – as noted in the independent report on the Rush/bounty issue – there was a schism among the league’s officials who worked for Rush. As the report maps out, there was a perceived arrogance and authoritarianism when many veteran officials assessed Rush, while other officials looked at Rush more favorably. We can probably assume many of those were of the younger set, who had more to lose by alienating Rush.
Well, one of the axes to grind among those who questioned Rush was his dual role. Not only was he coordinator of men’s hoops officials in the Pac-12, he had a position described by an NBA spokesman as “involved with the training and development of D-League refs.”
The spokesman says the Developmental League role ended when the season did.
Among Rush’s officiating detractors, the question arose: Can the Pac-12 coordinator of officials give his full attention to that position when he has another responsibility with the pros?
About half a dozen officials had crossover responsibilities in the Pac-12 and the D-League. I looked at the month of February, and boxscores show Justin Van Duyne worked five D-League games and six in the Pac-12. Jeff Wooten worked two in the D-League and four in the Pac-12 in February.
You can argue that the dual responsibilities of a coordinator are no different from the varied schedules of officials, who are independent contractors and often work three or four different leagues. It’s not uncommon for Pac-12 officials to do games in the West Coast, WAC and Mountain West.
I ran the question of Rush’s dual jobs by John Adams, NCAA men’s basketball officiating coordinator.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s very common,” said Adams. “But I also don’t see any problem with it.”
Adams also said, “We don’t have a policy as to who these leagues hire as coordinators.”
For his part, Scott answered the question of propriety in an oblique fashion. His response seemed to equate Rush’s D-League role with the Pac-12’s interest in bringing up promising new officials, and I took him to mean that’s going to continue, possibly even if Rush’s successor has a role with the pros. (But that’s merely my interpretation.)
“There will continue to be a heavy premium on developing the current roster of officials and identifying new talent,” Scott said.
The two goals, he said, are attracting to the league the most elite officials, but continuing to develop new ones. “They’re not mutually exclusive, and we’ve got very high standards for both,” he said.
Stayed tuned for the next post-Rush chapter in the next couple of weeks. The fact Scott has promised some “restructuring” can be taken as a hint that even beyond the obvious stain of the “bounty” controversy, the league hasn’t gotten where it wants to be in basketball officiating.