- Former Louisville recruit about his visit: ‘It was like I was in a strip club’ – Sportscenter was moved up an hour this East Coast morning to break this story. If that doesn’t suggest that this is a big deal – college basketball moving ESPN programs in the heart of NFL season – then let me tell you its time to start paying attention. Katina Powell, no matter what you think of her credibility, has been vetted by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist (Dick Cady). Even if you think she’s 90% full-of-it, then 10% of her allegations are true and wild at that. Her television appearance begins to name names (we love names, right? Russ Smith, Motrezl Harrell – players with championship rings). Alas, this isn’t about the players, it’s about those at the helm and the age old question: How much did he know? As in, which of these allegations – if true or even partially true – did Rick Pitino know about? Further, who was indeed propagating this? Andre McGee is the most named culprit, a graduate assistant at the time (now an assistant at UMKC). And maybe these aren’t the right questions at all? Sure we’re fascinated by college basketball and scandal in general, but what of a mother shopping her teenage daughters like this? That’s a sad reality amongst all of this as well. This isn’t a good story – for anyone – and its likely only to get worse.
- Things we think we know in the Pac-12 – Fellow Pac-12 blogger, Andrew Murawa, takes his first crack at 2015-16. In this post, Drew runs through some of the knowns and unknowns of the Pac-12 season. It’s a great composite of the innumerable questions begging to be answered about this odd Pac-12 season. It additionally begs the question: Don’t we know nothing? Is that why we like college basketball? Is that why other people hate it? I think about these things.
- What Baseball Taught Me – A lot of thoughts here but namely that the early-2000s A’s were the reason for the only piece of baseball paraphernalia that I own: A green Oakland A’s cap. Now this Player’s Tribune (a hit-or-miss publication) piece by Barry Zito takes a turn I didn’t expect but it’s thoughtful and bold. In there he writes, “At some point, even in the ethers of their mind, everyone has thought that they could maybe, just maybe, square up a 90 mph fastball.” I’m here to tell you: You cannot square up to a 90 mph fastball. Neither can you throw one.
- Huskies center Robert Upshaw dismissed from the program for violation of team rules – While this is a significantly damaging blow to Washington’s season, it’s an even rougher hit to Upshaw. There’s no secret surrounding Upshaw’s troubled path to where he is today. But it most certainly seems he’d begun to turn things around and for one of the most high character coaches around:
If Lorenzo Romar is done trying to save you, then you have some serious issues.Robert Upshaw just kicked away his best shot
— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) January 26, 2015
Yes, I hope the young man figures out whatever he needs to figure out. And when reporting on the matter, I hope we all have a little more discretion:
Washington kicks talented 7-footer Robert Upshaw off the team. Has battled drug issues in the past. — Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) January 26, 2015
- Roberto Saviano: My life under armed guard – Speaking of reporting, this is a fascinating first-hand account of the power of story telling. The life Saviano now leads – whether he chose it or not – is complex. I don’t get a good grasp of how he weighs the good he’s done with its cost. Nevertheless, his life will never be the same at the hope of making the lives of others better. Could you live like that?
- Fixing College Basketball: On Pace of Play and End of Game Scenarios – From Andrew Murawa comes a delightful account of his undelightful experience with the end of a basketball game. To paraphrase: S-L-O-W. Drew takes the measured effort of outlining how he’d improve the game with an admitted deference to brighter minds (of note: Drew knows hoops, he’s being humble). Well it was this piece that inspired my Marching to Vegas column to recount how our precious Pac-12 became a conference of slower pace and the logic behind that. To paraphrase: Damn you Tony Bennett.
A simple google search of Ed Rush’s name will result in nothing helpful with regards to basketball officiating. As it were, Ed Rush is also the name of a “jungle/techstep/neurofunk” DJ. His top song on Spotify is “Chubhub.”
This is likely not the man to have offered $5k cash or a trip to Cancun for actions against Sean Miller as reported by Jeff Goodman of CBS.
No, the man recently investigated by the Pac-12, Ed T. Rush, is the Head of Officiating for the conference. Per Goodman’s source, he offered these rewards to any official who “rang him up” or “ran him” during the Pac-12 tournament. Him referring to Sean Miller.
Now as this news hit the interwebs, I experience four stages of reaction in coming to my conclusions and feelings on the matter. I’ll walk you through my Monday afternoon:
Stage 1: Knee-jerk
Oh my. OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG. Wow. Whoa. Highlight-Control-C-Control-V-Gchat. Control-V-Tweet. Control-V-Personal-Book. Control-V-PacHoops-Book. Text. Text. Text. Text. Zero logical thought. OMGOMGOMGOMG. HEDIDTOUCHTHEBALL.
I assume my actions generated less than 1% of the post’s total view.
Stage 2: What’s this thing say exactly?
So then I read the whole thing. I learned that the Pac-12 “investigated” Head of Officiating, Ed T. Rush, and that an official anonymously made public comments made during this referees’ meeting. What was said was damning of an already poorly regarded officiating base, irresponsible for a man charged with upholding the integrity of sport, and threatened the sanctity of holding competitive athletics in Las Vegas (damn you!). “This,” I thought, “Is remarkably inappropriate and an obviously fireable offense. Ed T. Rush – because I have no beef with the neurofunk DJ – has no business in his current function. He clearly has a vendetta or grudge and an official’s office is no such place for those emotions to fester. What’s worse, what if there was a conspiracy to keep UCLA in the tournament? Emotion is one thing and excusable as human…but a SCANDAL! ARE WE LOOKING AT A SCANDAL?” Those were some of my thoughts.
And I have to imagine many of you shared these feelings and still do. Emotions ran high on the night of that technical – it’s even more well documented than the two points – and officiating has long been a point of contention in the Pac-12. Firing Ed T. Rush was a very rationale first thought. But…
Stage 3: What was this thing really saying?
So hold on, I think I needed to pause. Firing someone is a big deal and while I support just punishment, I’ve also come to learn that reactionary decisions are bad. Without this perspective I might have: No job, a child, debt, a graduate degree, things I can’t talk about because my mom might figure out how to use a computer this week, a piercing, more furniture off the street, JNCOs, an adult goatee, or an ASU fan.
Stepping back I noticed that this was a bullied subordinate attacking a man who “we’re all afraid of” under the conditions of anonymity. Suddenly this screamed of tattle tale and finger pointing. What’s more, who hasn’t suggested something astronomically preposterous in a work meeting? I once listed – from my first kill to the last – who I’d take out should the office ever enter a Hunger Games situation. That, in retrospect, was not my best work. This, in retrospect, is not Ed T. Rush’s best work.
If we’re to take the conference at it’s word, Rush’s comments were “in jest” and that everyone involved understood that these were “not serious offers.” No one wound up $5k richer. Michael Irving – the official who controversially T’d up Miller following this meeting – did not go to Cancun. An off the cuff remark that likely received chuckles was turned into a likely lucrative whistle blowing affair for one disgruntled man in stripes and jumped on by the media (understandably so).
During this stage of reaction I wasn’t excusing Rush’s comments but rather settling into the notion that these were words surrounding an official and an easy story to blow up. This angle also does not point fingers at Jeff Goodman for running with this story. It’s good stuff. But my grain of salt was growing…
Stage 4: My Take
In what was either a small windowless room in the bowels of the MGM Grand Garden Event center or a glorious conference room in the same venue, Ed T. Rush made a remark about one of the coaches that had rode his officials season long. An under-appreciated and intimidated official went to the media with it under the protection of anonymity following what would no doubt appear action stemming from that off-handed remark. The conference called it a joke and had addressed its inappropriate nature with Rush.
That’s the story we know.
The fall out, of course, is where the intrigue lies. Who’s getting fired? What’s the conspiracy? How much money was really exchanged? Did he touch the ball? Can I party with Irving at Señor Frogs?
Again, what we know is that Rush said something he undoubtedly should not have. We also have anecdotal evidence that Rush is a powerful man with capability of bullying people. Mark Cuban once said,
“Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen. His interest is not in the integrity of the game or improving the officiating, he #1 priority of Ed Rush is maintaining power.”
Officiating is both thankless and a grind. These officials are pining for games, overworked, and maybe not always assigned games based on skill but rather preference. The sarcastic commentary of a tyrannical boss, regardless his or her intent, can be interpreted in many ways. As a manager, Rush should have known better than to make such a comment. Stepping out of our basketball bubble – or even our sports bubble – a manager’s role, particularly on the eve of performance, is to coach, empower, and educate. Doubt should not be instilled in the minds of the team, no matter whether it’s sales, dance, bartending, or computer programming. You’re a leader, be better than the surface pettiness.
Back into our hoops bubble, these comments were made in the face of officials tasked with championing the law of sport. Now we do plenty of bitching at these men but we ultimately entrust them with the rules of the game. For the most part, they do a good job and are best appreciated when they are not seen.
Well, Ed T. Rush and Larry Scott, you’ve got the spotlight on them. All eyes.
And you dropped the ball. To dismiss this as a joke and that a couple conversations were had is unfathomably weak. I may be stepping into hyperbole but this is the very sanctity of sport. Rules – as we learned in kindergarten – are to be followed. If doubt creeps into the most basic and truest tenants of the game – that the rules must be followed – how do we trust any results?
It’s now undeniable that the playing field was not level for Arizona (NOTE: THAT GAME WAS NOT LOST ON THAT CALL) regardless of Rush’s intent.
For such, the spirit of competition deserves better than 191 inconsequential words of fluff. No. You nip this thing in the bud and you do not let it grow into the weed it could potentially become. It doesn’t matter what the investigation uncovered, this is bigger than whether Miller deserved a technical or not. This is the accountability of the stripes, the integrity of rules. Whether Irving’s actions were justified or not, Rush had planted this idea in his head. Inception, goes the dynamite. And regardless of Miller’s previous actions, leadership must be above such commentary in professional settings. Miller himself needs to be better than berating a Pac-12 employee in the halls.
So what we have here is a crummy situation. A comment that did not cost Arizona a basketball game (stop Jordan Adams already) but did put an entire conference’s officiating integrity in the limelight. The last thing they possibly needed addressed in the least convincing of manners.
What we needed was to believe that this was not sifting into the outcomes of the games which teams play to win, coaches coach to win, and fans cheer to win. To believe that these efforts are not for naught and that all participants can trust that the outcome was based off of the adherence and upholding of an established set of rules. To believe that when the final horn sounds, one team has prevailed over the other as the better of two competitors. Nothing else.
Following Monday’s Pac-12 statement and inaction, I don’t know if I believe.
When the buzzer sounded at Gill Coliseum and Thursday’s Pac-12 slate was complete, I noticed a lot of buzz, once again, surrounding the ups and downs of the Conference.
Yes, yes. Washington State had an explosive second half and UCLA lost, but ask yourself: were you really that surprised? Was UCLA losing to a hungry and beleaguered Oregon State team who’d previously beat the same Texas Longhorns that UCLA was handled by? Was it that upsetting that a Stanford team that struggles offensively couldn’t quite keep up with the 38th most accurate shooting team in the nation (47% FGs for WSU) and red hot Faisal Aden?
Beyond that, the conference held suit and further beyond that, who wants this stuff to be predictable? Sure, we’d all appreciate a better brand of basketball on the Left Coast but there’s a reason the games are played.
You want to talk unpredictability? How about UConn’s 4-3 Big East start or Pitt’s 0-6 run? Those Huskies were once ranked 4th in the nation and the Panther’s 11th. For a “basketball conference” the BE sure could be more “predictable.” 11-8 South Florida is tied for third? And don’t get me started on two-for-eleven into last year’s sweet sixteen.
But enough finger pointing.
Unpredictable is the nature of sports and I say carry on Pac-12! For all its roller coaster faults, there is still a definitive team to beat (Cal), a large group of contenders nipping at their heels (Stan, UW, UO, CU, UA, UCLA), and an upset minded duo (OSU, WSU). Nice little recipe for an enjoyable conference season.
So while it may be an easy complaining point, the reality is, you’re going to tune in to the games, especially if they unfold like the OSU-UCLA game. That was a very well played, fun game to watch. Both teams shot 58% from the field and outside of Howland spending his last timeout with 11 minutes remaining and a few stretches of back-and-forth slop, it was solid. Bravo Bruins and Beavers.
When discussing the nature of the conference and last night’s games, a buddy of mine coined Saturday’s games “moving day” for a lot of teams. Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, and Washington are playing each other in critical games. That’s the six, aforementioned teams nipping at the heels of Cal. And they’re playing eachother!
Moving day indeed. And then of course there’s just going to be next weekend.
Unpredicatable, crazy, awful, painful, embarassing. Call it what you will but I’m going to watch because when it’s all said and done, someone’s gotta win this thing and subsequently go dancing.
And dancing is what it’s all about.