Pac-12 releases Ice Miller report & we still need a better program

The website of Ice Miller, LLP looks a lot like something a first year computer science major would create…in 1997 (POST UPDATE: I was contacted by Ice Miller on August 2, 2016 and asked to remove the previously posted photo. Below is now their updated logo per their request):ICE-Logo_DARK_GRAY_RGB


This is eons from Web 2.0 but that’s not the point.

The point is that Ice Miller is the legal firm tasked by the “Pac-12’s CEO Group Executive Committee” to dive into the events leading up to and surrounding the clusterbang that became the 2013 Pac-12 tournament. Read the thing here.

To summarize those events:

And now we’re here and Ice has interviewed 42 people, reviewed reports and talked to those reporters, consulted with the NCAA, watched video and read documents to come to the following:

Due to the diversity of reported recollections about the Arizona-Colorado post-Game and the Arizona-UCLA pre-game, a singularly reliable understanding of the events of either meeting cannot be reconstructed.

I’m sorry, come again? Your high priced investigation, two months long and involving the aforementioned efforts resulted in not even an understanding?

Well, allow me mine then.

First of all, I’ve long felt that this investigation would be fruitless. It was and has proven to be an expensive reconstruction of the past that, unless something new was discovered (i.e. Michal Irving sipping Pinas poolside at a posh Cancun all-inclusive), we would all read and get upset again.

It also highlights for me human nature.

Have you ever read A Million Little Pieces? Fantastic read but a tale that got author James Frey into some heat. As it were, he didn’t recount his own life’s history all too well and someone investigated his quickly famed memoir to find holes. They found ’em and Oprah got pissed. Of course this incited a deep questioning of what is memoir and would eventually prompt journalist, David Carr to write his own memoir, The Night of the Gun. Carr had taken particular offense to Frey’s muddled story and sought to tell his own tale of alcoholism and life at rock bottom. His twist? He was going to report on it. Use his skills as an investigative journalist to recount his journey through hell as those around him and involved – on many levels – had seen it.

What he found was that his recollection of things was grossly skewed. One example: He would recall that the moment his twin daughters were born he checked into rehab, sobered up and became the man and father he had always intended to be (that’s to say a good one). The reality he discovered through his reporting, however, suggests otherwise. He spent another 9 months following their birth playing the role of shit father and druggie. At one point leaving his daughters in a running car while he got high in a crack house.

Rock. Bottom.

He would eventually sober up but I encourage you to read the book for yourself. Both of them. Because the point I’m trying to make here is that we create our own realities. We see the world through our own filters and so it makes great sense that Ice Miller found a “diversity” of recollections. That both Frey and Carr perceived their own lives far differently than the rest of the world.

Reading through the report, I’m not surprised that two officials recount Rush as “professional and business-like” and acting not at all “derogatory or demeaning” following the Arizona-Colorado game (evidently when things began to spice up with regards to bench decorum and bribery). That’s what they saw. And three other officials in the exact same room reported Rush as “animated… worked up… pretty aggressive…ranting and raving…and out of control.” Naturally, the other two refs in the room reported something falling between these two “extremes.”

The other exchanges and meetings play out the same way. X officials in the room thought he was funny. X other officials thought he was scary. The remaining officials were picking their noses.

But I suppose it makes good sense that we find ourselves with but a disjointed and inconclusive history considering what Ice was specifically tasked with uncovering:

(i) the occurrence, nature, and impact of certain statements publicly attributed to the Coordinator;

(ii) the integrity of the officiating in the March 15th Arizona-UCLA semifinal game; and

(iii) the conduct of Arizona’s Head Coach after the Arizona – UCLA game and the resulting disciplinary sanctions imposed by the Commissioner.

To which they answered (i) jokes, (ii) kinda, (iii) bad Sean. So as Ice stated, they could come to no understanding. These three answers had already been understood.

I mean, I was there and have to agree with Ice’s thought that, “In sum, the Arizona-UCLA game was fairly, although imperfectly, officiated.”

I’ve also come to understand that it’s clear something was lost in translation. That whether Ed Rush was speaking as a jester or a businessman, the hard reporting is such that even Ice believes:

The Coordinator of Officiating’s statements regarding bench decorum in the pre-game officiating meeting prior to the Arizona-UCLA game prompted greater strictness in the manner with which the officials enforced bench decorum guidelines in the Arizona-UCLA game. But for the Coordinator’s statements regarding bench decorum in the March 15 pre-game meeting, the technical foul assessed against Arizona’s Head Coach during the Arizona-UCLA game would likely not have been called.

Which makes the report’s subsequent paragraph a difficult pill for me to swallow. It’s the section in which Ice says that the game was officiated with integrity. Seems like odd logic. Especially as they continue down a path of discussing how Rush’s pre-game comments indeed held affect on the enforcement of that night’s bench decorum. A point that, really, I have no problem with. If the finding is such that officials were to uphold bench decorum rules and Miller and Howland were justly warned, then whammy T him up. The report makes no bones about Rush’s enthusiasm for the enforcement of this rule.

But what goes perhaps calculatedly unmentioned is the so-called bribing. They cite Rush’s “emphatic” pre-game as the reason for a T that would’ve otherwise gone unassessed. Never mentioning foreign destinations or cash.

And then, of course, there’s my favorite part:

According to the Coordinator’s colleague, the Coordinator’s immediate reaction was, “Oh, shit. That’s not good,” because the technical foul did not appear warranted.

Utter gold.

And that is why Rush quit. Or was squeezed out. Because this isn’t a difficult case. You’re a referee, you can’t even tickle the game’s integrity. Regardless of the diverse recounting or where rules emphasis was placed, someone felt it necessary to blow this whistle as the game’s integrity was now in question.

And now the CEO Group Executive Committee (what kind of name is that?) has their review of the events. They can cite their due diligence in gaining a full understanding of what a joke sounds like, what a joke doesn’t sound like, and how 42 different people thought it was hilarious or otherwise.

But it’s really time for the latter part of what the conference mentioned when announcing this Independent Review. The release notes, “In addition [to the review of events], Ray and Scott expect that the review will contribute to a broader examination of the officiating program.” Ray being CEO Group Chair Edward J. Ray.

Because the only thing to understand from all of this is that it was indeed a clusterbang and as clusterbangs go, fixing is in order. It’s time to review the program, find out how to best uphold the game’s integrity and how to deliver a quality product to the players and coaches. And sure, these silly events resulted in a number of “Oh Shit” moments, but where’s the report on Pac-12 officiating on the whole? Why are refs still pining for games and jumping all over their given seaboard (if not the whole country) to get themselves gigs? Why, sometimes, do they utterly stink? But most importantly, what’s being done to get better?

Ray’s quote in accepting all of this from Ice states that, “The report provides valuable lessons for all parties, which will be incorporated in how we restructure the men’s basketball officiating program and policies.”

One can only hope.

So I’m OK considering the hatchet buried. That’s ultimately what the Pac-12’s CEO Group Executive Committee was buying here. And so long as there is a better officiating product and we all – but namely the players and coaches – believe that there is a fair and just upholding of the law, I’ll buy it, too.

And I leave you with some of my favorite gems from the report:

Ice Miller interviewed the Pac-12 Enterprises junior staff member in-person and knows the person’s identity.

Jim Rosborough – Volunteer Coach, Women’s Tennis

The Head Coach formulated his anti-Pac-12 mindset at the 4:37 mark

It is likely that if the Junior Staff Member had been an experienced college athletics administrator familiar with coaches’ post-game emotions, the Junior Staff Member’s reaction to the Head Coach’s conduct would have been far less pronounced.

The content of Head Coach’s statements fits into two categories, expressions of general frustration (e.g., “Fuck the Pac-12” and, “Bullshit conference”) and expressions about cheating (e.g., “Cheat-

ass conference” and, “Cheating fucking conference”).

Not all five attendees report the same exact offer. Some report $3,000 instead of $5,000 or a cruise instead of a trip to Cancun.

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