SAN FRANCISCO — The Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences are teaming up to collaborate on men's basketball officiating, putting longtime Mountain West coordinator Bobby Dibler in charge of the programs and of managing a pool of top national and regional officials.
In announcing the officiating alliance Friday, the conferences said that the West Coast Conference, Big West Conference and Western Athletic Conference also will take part in the leagues' training programs. While those conferences will schedule separately from the Pac-12 and Mountain West, overlapping officials could work additional games with geography a consideration in order to keep officials fresh while also limiting travel.
"You've got some pockets that these guys can stay in and not have to travel all day to get to an assignment," Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said on a conference call. "I think it's very simplistic in its approach. Overall, our simple goal is to improve men's basketball officiating in both leagues. ... Accountability is very important in this structure going forward to the athletic directors from the Pac-12 and Mountain West."
Thompson said he and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott had been working on this initiative for some time.
It became even more urgent after the Pac-12's officiating system came under scrutiny during the conference tournament in March in Las Vegas, where former officiating coordinator Ed Rush had offered bounties — $5,000 or a trip to Mexico — for any official who disciplined Arizona coach Sean Miller. While Rush has said he wasn't serious and was "jokingly" trying to "lighten the mood" in the locker room, he resigned April 4.
"We really took a fresh look at it once Ed resigned. When Ed started there were some clear goals to work on," Scott said. "A deeper commitment had been made to training and evaluation, bringing in some new blood and talent to the officiating corps. We were heading, from our perspective, in a good direction before the incident that happened in Las Vegas. When it happened and Ed Rush resigned, we took a step back to evaluate and we learned some lessons through that whole process about how officiating works."
Scott has been eager to swiftly move on from the issue, saying, "I'm completely looking forward, not in the rearview mirror." He added that he intended to speak with Miller in person about the new leadership and direction of the Pac-12's officiating.
Scott fined Miller $25,000 for a rant — he was hit with a technical — during and after the Wildcats' two-point semifinal loss to UCLA in the conference tournament. The conference said Miller confronted an official on the floor, among other inappropriate actions.
Findings of an independent review by Indianapolis-based law firm Ice Miller LLP, released last weekend, supported the conference's handling of the situation this spring.
Scott called for a broad approach to improving officiating, rather than putting it all on one person to coordinate. He also spent time speaking with national leaders on the issue.
"The idea is that it's going to be a common roster of officials. There's a heavy emphasis on grading," he said, noting efforts will be made to add to the officiating pool. "The idea of collaboration makes a lot of sense. Our objective is greater accountability, greater consistency."
Dibler has served the past 14 years as officiating coordinator for the Mountain West and spent 1992-98 in the same role for the WAC. Previously, he worked 11 NCAA tournaments, three Final Fours, and several NITs during a 20-year officiating career.
To assist Dibler, the conferences said they will hire a deputy coordinator "to support the evaluation and training functions of the program." A technology coordinator also will be put in place, along with game graders to evaluate all officials.
Dibler and his staff will hold a training clinic for all roster officials before this season — with the WCC, Big West and WAC officials also taking part and "furthering the impact of the collaboration on officiating in the western United States."
"For our officials, this is a great opportunity to improve their officiating skills, maximize their schedule and reduce travel," Dibler said. "I look forward to establishing a top preseason training program and outlining a clear communications process between all our officials, the conferences, and our coaches."
Top officials based on the West Coast might no longer need to fly from one corner of the country to the other to maintain a full schedule of games if the leagues' joint efforts work the way the conferences hope.
There will be a focus on the "health, well-being and freshness of the officials to come up with a more efficient travel schedule," Scott said. "We've got a lot of elite officials in the West. There are certain officials that want to work more to the extent we've collaborated with the WCC and with the Big West and with the WAC for a coordination when it comes to extra assignments to think about the amount of travel, wear and tear."