Posted April 17, 2013

Steve Alford has about-face, apologizes for handling of Pierre Pierce case

Uncategorized
Steve Alford went 152-106 in eight seasons at Iowa. (Steve Conner/Icon SMI)

Steve Alford went 152-106 in eight seasons at Iowa. (Steve Conner/Icon SMI)

On Thursday afternoon, new UCLA head coach Steve Alford issued a statement in which he apologized for his handling of the high-profile sexual assault case of former Iowa player Pierre Pierce when Alford was the coach there. In the statement, Alford said “at that time, I instinctively and mistakenly came to [Pierce's] 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.”

It’s an interesting move for Alford — and for UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who released his own statement in conjunction with Alford’s — as discussion of the Pierce case has resurfaced in a big way since Alford was hired by Guerrero last week. It’s also a pretty stark about-face, as Alford had a totally different posture regarding Pierce in his introductory press conference last week. When asked about the incident in that presser, Alford said it happened a long time ago and then tried to pass the buck back onto the university itself for the handling of the case.

“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,” Alford said on April 2.

The issue with that statement, with today’s reversal of posture as further evidence, is that it’s almost certainly not true, and at the very least ignored Alford’s well-publicized public defenses of Pierce at the time. Alford defended Pierce when he was initially charged, and then continued to defend him publicly even after evidence of the charges against Pierce had been made available to Alford. Then you can parse individual parts of the case, perhaps most damningly the fact that Athletes in Action, a faith-based organization run by a good friend of Alford’s, was used in an attempt to intimidate the victim into staying quiet. Those details, and many others, are mentioned in the university’s official report of the investigation.

Pierce ultimately was kept on scholarship but was forced to miss the 2002-03 season (he took a redshirt). The decision led to protests on campus. Pierce returned to the program for the 2003-04 campaign, and subsequently was dismissed from Iowa after another incident midway through his junior year. In that case, Pierce pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary, assault with an intent to commit sexual abuse, false imprisonment, and fourth-degree criminal mischief after an incident with his then girlfriend. He ended up spending almost a year in jail.

Alford’s comments last week were contradicted by the prosecutor who handled the Pierce case. J. Patrick White told the Orange County Register that Alford’s continued public insistence of Pierce’s innocence at the time was very hurtful to the victim and made prosecution of the initial case more difficult, eventually leading to a plea bargain that didn’t include jail time. Then White added this near the bottom of the story:

“(Alford’s) explanation, both then and subsequently, he’s maintained that he was saying what he had been told to say,” White said. “But I’ve talked to (then-Iowa athletic director) Bob Bowlsby and I’m reasonably certain that not to be the case.”

While it’s possible to dismiss the comments of a prosecutor as biased, he was far from the only person who spoke up last week after Alford’s hire and the initial press conference. Multiple members of the Los Angeles media shredded Alford and Guerrero after the presser. Chicago columnist Dan Bernstein called Alford a scumbag, providing details of the Athletes in Action claims, among other reasons.

Maybe most alarmingly, Iowa City Press-Citizen writer Pat Harty authored a lengthy column in which he claimed Pierce had also menaced his niece on campus and says Alford and the school did nothing about it. In that column, Harty openly admits he had issues with Alford to the point he had to remove himself from the team’s coverage beat for the sake of objectivity, but it strains belief that he would just fabricate a story like that out of nowhere, a decade later, with mentions of his brother and family members in it. When you add that to the other claims and stories and actual evidence in the Pierce case, it paints a very poor picture of Alford.

So perhaps that was the strategy reached today by Alford and Guerrero. Maybe they saw what trying to bury a story did to Rutgers last week, and decided to proactively try to end it. Based on initial media reaction, though, it appears to just be stoking the flames even more. Now that Alford has denounced his decade-long position after he protected the perpetrator of a sex crime, perhaps it’s time to ask if Mr. Guerrero’s position on his new hire should also change.

13 comments
granitesentry
granitesentry

Couldn't say about the facts of the case, but my understanding is that in America we have a presumption of innocence in criminal cases. Usually that's pretty important to the liberals, unless it interferes, as in this case, with trying to scuttle the career of a prominent basketball coach.

DavidJones1
DavidJones1

Steve Alford was not the only one who supported Pierce.  The university, the A.D.,  the players, and Hawkeye fans all welcomed back Pierce after he was convicted in 2002.  The A.D. actually Red-shirted Pierce during the time that he was prosecuted.  Pierce pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of "assault causing injury."  He was not charged with rape.  So if Alford is guilty of supporting Pierce, a whole lot of people associated with the university are also guilty of the same.


http://www.dailyiowanmedia.com/archives/?p=445938


http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2004-01-17/sports/0401170179_1_sexual-assault-hawkeyes-athletic-director-bob-bowlsby

juanvelarde
juanvelarde

As a lifetime Lobo fan I am appalled that the Albuquerque Journal and the UNM administration did nothing to question this.  Also the daily lobo (university newspaper) did not pursue this at all.  This may become so radioactive that UCLA has to let Alford go.  He sure as hell is not returning to the PIT.  

Mike26
Mike26

I certainly HOPE that this issue doesn't die - it SHOULD be cause for concern for UCLA fans.  This information is 10 years old and both New Mexico and UCLA seemingly ignored it completely.  The arrogance of Alford to just dismiss his behavior in the matter is hypocritical on so many levels, especially considering his "Christian" faith.  Anyone who approves of what he did or just writes it off as a "simple mistake" is either unwilling or unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation:  victim intimidation through public denouncements and sending other "Christians" to do his bidding/intimidating; consistently brushing off or giving inaccurate statements regarding the incident; and now, giving a half-hearted "apology" in an attempt to close the discussion.

The funniest (saddest?) thing is this:  Alford is NOT a great coach, nor even a very good one.  He's good at the mid-major level.  He's a bailout candidate for UCLA when the other "hot" names turned them down (though the other "hot" names are also just mid-major guys seemingly VERY comfortable in their small ponds).  He's not even as good as the guy that UCLA fired and will be paying the next 2 years for doing nothing.  Just wait and see how Alford does without his #1 assistant Craig Neal - I give him 2 years before UCLA FINALLY comes to its senses and cleans house in the AD and the basketball offices.

gary41
gary41

"It is almost certainly not true"  I would say you are almost certainly off base.  Thanks for your opinion of how the various facts played out.  Most of us have already been thru that incident over 10 years ago.  Alford spoke prematurely and was reprimanded by the University, not unlike a similar scenario with  Boeheim at Syracuse.  This does not in any way constitute a story.  Bringing this up again, for the second time now, by this author is overbearing and pointless.   

Steve Phillips
Steve Phillips

Why do media types try to create controversy with everything? Every coach in America wants to believe his players are innocent of any wrongdoing! I would imagine Alord would like to go back and say/do things differently! The only scumbag is Pierce and media types who dig up dirt from 10 years ago and shovel it into a different pile.

Carl10
Carl10

Alford is a sleaze who will do and say anything to advance his career. John Wooden must be mortified that UCLA hired this scumbag. The fact that Alford was the best the Bruins could hire shows just how insignificant and irrelevant the program has become. Alford won't do anything to change that for the better.

MMATorchRich
MMATorchRich

Steve Alford is a scumbag.  Always has been, always will be.  And soon enough, everyone by Dick Vitale and Bob Knight will agree.

Mike26
Mike26

@gary41 Gary, I would like to echo the words I left for Steve Phillips down below and add this: it makes me shudder you don't think victim intimidation in the name of athletic prowess is a big deal.  It doesn't say much for your character if you approve of it - and the fact that Alford LIED about it.

Mike26
Mike26

@Steve Phillips Steve, I hope that no one in your family or any friends are ever severely assaulted or have serious crimes committed against them.  It's apparent that you're either unwilling or unable to grasp the weight of this situation.

Steve Phillips
Steve Phillips

I know exactly how serious it is! Tell me what spouse, coach, parent, boyfriend, girlfriend does not usually come out in support of the person under scrutiny?

To imply that 10 years later Alford does not deserve a job, whether at UCLA or another institution is ludicrous.

Would you prefer he be banned from coaching? He left Iowa or maybe would have been fired, regardless he is gone. This doesn't mean he hasn't learned something. will handle many situation differently

Mike26
Mike26

@Steve Phillips Steve, his words at the opening press conference are a pretty good indicator that he hasn't changed much.  As for the coach defending a player's off-field actions, most usually deflect the question and NOT publicly decry their innocence or attempt to intimidate the victim behind the scenes.  Alford went FAR beyond most coaches in a VERY public way VERY intentionally.  I would never send a penny or a child to a school in which he was involved.