Steve Alford issues apology regarding Pierre Pierce case

Since being hired as UCLA basketball’s 13th head coach, Steve Alford has weathered intense criticism concerning his defense of Iowa star Pierre Pierce in 2002.

Then a sophomore for the Hawkeyes, Pierce was faced with third-degree sexual assault charges and suspended from the team. However, Alford repeatedly proclaimed Pierce’s innocence, even doing so less than a week before the point guard pleaded to a reduced misdemeanor.

A University of Iowa report then stated that Alford’s comments “implied that he disbelieved and discredited the claims of the student victim, and his words were perceived as reflecting insensitivity to issues of sexual assault and sexual violence.” Pierce was imprisoned later on separate charges that included assault with intent to commit sex assault.

On Thursday, nine days after he was introduced at Pauley Pavilion, Alford issued an apology through a press release. His statement in full:

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.

Of course, Alford could have said something similar when asked about the incident during his official introduction to the Los Angeles media on April 2. Instead, he offered little contrition and deferred to his former bosses at the Iowa.

“All I can tell you with that situation is that 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,” Alford said. “I followed everything that I was told to do.”

That same day, athletic director Dan Guerrero defended Alford and said the new coach deserved a “clean slate” for something that had happened over a decade ago.

He echoed that sentiment again in today’s press release.

“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,” Guerrero said in a statement. “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.”

  • Joe Blow

    Little late for the victim. Of course, if he can win games, who cares? Right?

    • Sam C

      Sounds like a lane kiffin / pete carroll motto to me. I’m not excusing it. This was a long time coming . But at least it came. What little integrity that shows is still more than kiffin and Carroll show

      • Joe Blow

        Water polo anyone? Nice athletic program.

        • maze949

          Says the gal whose team is on probation, and whose “school” just built a fence around their entire campus because of the rampant rapes.

          • Joe Blow

            And has 13 NCs in football.

          • BruinInSeattle

            that’s your response to rape? that as long as the team wins NCs, rape is okay? Criminy, man…

          • Joe Blow

            Seems to be Alford’s answer

          • gotroy22

            Don’t judge all SC fans by Joe.

          • Joe Blow

            And don’t judge em by googoo22

          • Joe Blow

            You should know. Read all the thread before making a complete
            f o o l of yourself

          • samollie

            the fact that this idiot Joe Blow makes light of rape proves his character. It’s one thing to antagonize us about sports, but real-life is entirely different. Please stop giving this flawed “human” our attention, he’s just proven he’s the base of the base.

          • Joe Blow

            Buzz off

        • Marc

          UCLA acted swiftly in the case of the water polo player. You cannot judge a community or organization based on the actions of individuals. What you can do is judge a community or organization based on how they act based on knowledge of an incident involving an individual residing in their community or organization.

          First, the action is a accusation at this point and the legal system will determine the facts. Second, UCLA acted quickly by removing the suspect from their community.

          That, on the surface, appears to be drastically different than how USC acts. Mark Sanchez?

          • Joe Blow

            Difference between grabbing a girl’s rear end and rape. Of course for ucla, that’s equal.

          • Joe Blow

            Hey, maybe the kid can play basketball and the coach can defend him too. And say he’s sorry in 2023.

          • gotroy22

            I wouldn’t get high and mighty about rape after our own problems with Eric Wright, Herschel Dennis and Frostee Rucker.

          • Joe Blow

            All three you mentioned did NOT commit any thîng. Dennis’ ex even admitted it.

          • Marc

            It’s all sexual assault. Again: the organization is judged by how it responds, not by the actions of an individual.

            The Catholic Church is not judged harshly because there are pedos in the churches, it’s judged harshly because of how they responded to the fact that there are pedos in their system.

            There are tens of thousands of students and faculty at UCLA, some are bound to do something wrong. The fact is UCLA acted correctly by removing the person while the legal system takes its course.

            Of course, a USC education (if you even have one) would likely not have given you the critical thinking skills to make such distinctions.

          • Joe Blow

            It actually does and I would not have hired a defender of rape like ucla has

  • Mark

    Ok, are you guys going to leave him alone now?

    PS, Jack: what defines “intense criticism.?” I really havent heard all that much chatter about. Ppl back in Iowa and the Midwest seem to care more about it than the local press.

    • BruinInSeattle

      the press raised questions at his very own unveiling…i’d say the press has latched on…they love a story that discredits UCLA and besmirches the sanctimoniousness of the Wooden era fans…GrrrError hired gift wrapped a scandal and handed it to them. And if you want intense criticism, read every fan forum out there. This guy is not universally well liked, which he should have been when coming to UCLA. Huge mistake on the part of the AD.

      • Joe Blow

        Love it. You are soooooo right. Sea Hawks

  • Cliff Sakata

    11 years to apologize?

  • BruinInSeattle

    still a scumbag. someone forced his hand. he didnt admit fault on his own. hope this gets GrrrError fired. Clearly the AD lacks sound judgement.

    • Joe Blow

      We finally agree. Ad I mean that for the cross town clowns.

  • Sam C

    Interesting how he apologizes while at ucla, but never in the six years in New Mexico

  • Santiago Matamoros

    “I look forward to being a Bruin and leading a program that everyone will take pride in, both on and off the court.”

    What a bad start.

    • BruinInSeattle

      not until he is gone will that be even possible.

  • Tes Ta

    i hate this new coach

    • BruinInSeattle

      me too

  • UCLA ’64

    After what happened in 2002, the University of Iowa kept Steve Alford around for another four years. There was no hullabaloo about this from Iowa when Coach Alford went to the University of New Mexico because the Lobos were lousy in basketball at the time, and nobody cared. What a bunch of hypocrites those Hawkeyes are!

    When UCLA — the mecca of college basketball — hires Steve Alford, all hades breaks loose. The woman involved can’t say anything because of the plea agreement, and neither can Pierce. So, somehow it all falls to Coach Alford. You’d think he had committed the third degree sexual assault the way some people have carried on. He didn’t repeatedly make statements, and people would know that if they’d read the UI ad hoc committee report. Shame on the Daily Bruin for not doing that!

    Coach Alford shouldn’t have intervened in the legal process in any way, but it’s quite unconscionable to continue to crucify him for that.

    Most of the the people who’ve commented on this board are either Trojans or Hawkeyes with an agenda, so who gives a darn about their opinions.

    • BruinInSeattle

      There were protests during every game, attendance dropped dramatically. Sure, the University was culpable, TOO, but UCLA didn’t hire the University of Iowa to coach its team, they hired Steve Alford. Speaking of which, why the hullabaloo now? Because most of us had thought UCLA had a pretty high standard for the character of its coaches and we were shocked to find out this wasn’t true and that the AD didn’t know just how high the standards were at his own University.

  • Bill

    In this country, at one time, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Until you are proven guilty, you are INNOCENT. He did the right thing. If he said he was innocent after the verdict, then I could see a reason for an uproar! I haven’t seen such stupidity short of Figueroa Tech!

    • BruinInSeattle

      1) They were already working on a plea bargain when he made his remarks, so he was fully aware of the players guilt
      2) This wasn’t the first occurrence of sexual assault. Another girl had been accosted by this creep of which the coach was aware

  • 92104bruinfan

    The concept of “better late than never” was stretched to its boundaries here. Obviously wish he had done this years ago instead of letting it fester as he did. However, he finally owned it albeit with the likely nudging of university officials and assisted via a well crafted statement by the p.r. and legal staff.

    I wasn’t a fan of Alford’s hire. Wish we would have gone after a Buzz Williams or a Gregg Marshall both of whom have solid resumes and appear ready to take the next step.

    However, the deed is done. Alford is our coach and I’m pulling for him, the staff, and players to win and represent the school with dignity and class. Onward we march.

    Go Bruins!

  • Phil Williams

    I find it funny how Gold only came out with this after the coach’s little letter, it was widely known for weeks and Gold said nothing.

  • Joe Blow

    Maybe Dan can hire Tiger as the golf coach. No character.

  • André Toupee

    Wow – Bruin fans are a show — and I am one, almost 40 years now. A coach I work with routinely commented on this recently, “Jesus doesn’t coach”. The guy didn’t rape anyone, nor was he any part of an alleged crime. He shot his mouth off and while being really stupid and insensitive – wasn’t convicted of anything. His record indicates he’s a driven, tough, hungry coach that will no doubt allow all of you that find so much disdain for him, plenty of chances to wear your hats proudly as he walks over many teams in his path. You say you wanna win, but you want a saint running your program. Grow up. I worked with John Wooden. Amazing man in many respects. Not without faults himself though. He didn’t have a halo around his head and he would be the first to tell you so. While being a college basketball icon, he benefitted from having a long, generous streak of coaching some of the greatest talent in the game — when the game itself was different — and the players were different — and the world itself was different. I literally laugh when I read some of the expectations held by ego crazed UCLA fans — Pitino is coming! Donvan!!! Even… ready for it… Phil Jackson to UCLA!!! I agree we want the best we can get and a clean program to go with it. The guy made some stupid comments. So has every president ever to sit in the White House. Give the guy a chance. Really, it’s been 11 years. I gotta hope maybe people can learn something from their mistakes. Even my fellow Bruin fans that continue to make all of us out to be whiny, no-nothing wannabes