This was Steve Alford, speaking last week during his introductory press conference as UCLA's new head basketball coach. Alford was asked about his handling of sexual assault allegations against Pierre Pierce when Pierce played for Alford at Iowa 10 years ago:
“That was an incident that happened years ago at the University of Iowa and all I can tell you with that situation is I followed everything that the University of Iowa, the administration, the lawyers that were hired, I did everything I was supposed to do at the University of Iowa in that situation. I followed everything that I was told to do."
This was Steve Alford yesterday, in a statement issued by UCLA:
"Over the past week, questions have arisen about my handling of an incident involving a charge of sexual assault made against a student-athlete in 2002, while I was coach of the University of Iowa men's basketball team. At that time, I instinctively and mistakenly came to his defense before knowing all the facts. I wanted to believe he was innocent, and in response to a media question, I publicly proclaimed his innocence before the legal system had run its course. This was inappropriate, insensitive and hurtful, especially to the young female victim involved, and I apologize for that. I have learned and grown from that experience and now understand that such proclamations can contribute to an atmosphere in which similar crimes go unreported and victims are not taken seriously. It's important for me personally and professionally to make sure Chancellor Block, Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, all of my student-athletes and the entire UCLA community, including our fans, understand that today I would handle the situation much differently, with the appropriate regard and respect for the investigative process and those impacted by it. I look forward to being a Bruin and leading a program that everyone will take pride in, both on and off the court."
Alford's statement was issued along with one from UCLA AD Dan Guerrero, which read in part:
I was aware of this situation when we hired Steve and concluded that although he made an error in judgment 11 years ago, he had learned and grown from that experience. Our evaluation was based on his entire career, both on and off the court, and that is what led us to make our decision that he was the right coach for UCLA.
Pierce, for his part, has told Chicago Side's Daniel Libit that Alford "has always been in my corner." Andy Glockner over at SI has a pretty good summary of everything that's wrong with this, and why Alford's handling of Pierce went beyond simply making public statements on his behalf. It basically boils down to the following: When Alford went to bat for Pierce all those years ago, he was just taking orders and doing his job, OK? And UCLA was satisfied that "he had learned and grown from that experience." But now that everyone keeps bringing up Pierce instead of how fantastic it is that Alford's next in line to fail at being John Wooden, Alford and UCLA have decided, you know, come to think of it, Alford is sorry for all that Pierce business. Now can we all just move on and get ready to lose to Oregon in another seven months?
Photo Credit: Associated Press