Steve Alford apologizes for handling of rape case while at Iowa

Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
UCLA coach Steve Alford apologized for his handling of a sexual assault case involving Pierre Pierce while coaching the Iowa men's basketball team
  • While coaching at Iowa%2C Alford in 2002 defended Pierce%2C who was charged with third-degree sexual assault
  • In 2005%2C Pierce was again charged with sexual assault%2C but he was dismissed before charges were filed
  • When introduced at UCLA%2C Alford said he did %27everything that %28he%29 was told to do%27 regarding the handling of it all

Since UCLA hired Steve Alford nearly two weeks ago, critics have come out in force against the hiring and Alford in general.

One dark spot that has continually come up is his handling of a sexual assault case involving starting guard Pierre Pierce while coaching the Iowa men's basketball team.

In September 2002, Pierce was accused of raping a female Iowa athlete. At the time, Alford adamantly defended his player, saying at the time, "I totally believe he's innocent." Pierce was charged with third-degree sexual assault and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. He was suspended and redshirted.

Then in 2005, Pierce was charged with sexual assault again when he was accused of threatening an ex-girlfriend with a knife and choking her. He was dismissed from the team before charges were filed.

When asked at UCLA's introductory news conference about his handling of the Pierce situation at Iowa, Alford said he did "everything that (he) was told to do."

He has since changed his tune in the wake of an outpouring of criticism and negativity.

On Thursday afternoon, Alford released the following statement, in which he apologized for his handling of Pierce and his disregard for the feelings of the victim:

Steve Alford:

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.

Also Thursday, UCLA's athletics director Dan Guerrero released the following statement:

I appreciate and respect Steve Alford's statement on this issue. Everyone has regrets in their past, but acknowledging them and learning from them shows true character. 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. Steve came to us with a tremendous reputation and record in New Mexico, and I am excited to see how he can build on and grow our men's basketball program at UCLA. I expect all of our coaches to serve as an example to our student-athletes and the entire Bruin family, displaying true character and strong values. Working with Steve over the last two weeks I am confident that he will demonstrate the leadership we expect of all our coaches.