Steve Alford passed up a golden opportunity for a fresh start at UCLA.
During the April 2 press conference introducing Alford as the 13th coach of the men’s basketball team, his answer to the second question of the day could have set him on the right path.
The question addressed Alford’s handling of a sexual assault case involving one of his players 11 years ago.
In his response, Alford avoided responsibility for his actions and said that he had only done what the University of Iowa instructed – a claim that the university’s administration has contested.
This board calls on Alford to do what he should have done many years ago and again at last week’s press conference: make a public apology. He owes that, at least, to the community of the University of Iowa.
Many will still find an apology disingenuous but here at UCLA we expect better than what Alford has offered thus far. An apology is the right thing to do.
The story of how Alford repeatedly proclaimed standout player Pierre Pierce’s innocence in the sexual assault case involving a fellow University of Iowa student re-emerged on March 31 with a column in CBS Chicago that was critical of Alford’s handling of the situation.
The column described Alford’s tie to a campus organization that “contacted the victim to seek an informal resolution of the matter by asking the victim to meet informally for prayer with the perpetrator,” according to a 2003 report by the University of Iowa that investigated the situation.
A recent story in the Orange County Register took issue with how Alford continued to publicly state Pierre’s innocence even after evidence to the contrary was brought forth.
Alford must have known that the question would come up in the press conference and his persistent deflection of personal blame makes his answer at the press conference unacceptable.
By passing the buck to the University of Iowa and trying to exonerate himself in the situation, Alford only made the situation worse. He has now hurt at least two communities: the University of Iowa’s and UCLA’s.
Our coaches are often measured by an understandably unfair standard: John Wooden, a model human being. If there’s one word to describe Wooden, it’s “integrity.”
Alford knew that going into this. He grew up in Wooden’s backyard and came to coach the program Wooden made great.
All of this only makes Alford’s actions more disappointing. We expect integrity and Alford did not display it.
With a chance to open a new chapter in the storied history of UCLA men’s basketball, Alford’s response to the question about the Pierce case was simply a cop-out.
Not only is a public apology the right thing for Alford to give, it is also necessary in order for him to have a chance of earning the respect of the UCLA community.