Steve Alford said he’s sorry for how he handled sexual assault allegations against Pierre Pierce, his former player at Iowa.
The apology from UCLA’s new coach dates back to an incident more than a a decade old. In 2002, Pierce was accused of sexual assault. Alford defended him on a number of occasions and proclaimed his innocence, but after another incident involving a woman in 2005 Pierce was kicked off the Iowa team.
Pierce later pleaded guilty to two charges of first-degree burglary, assault with intent to commit sexual assault and fourth-degree criminal mischief. Pierce spent 11 months in prison.
That Steve Alford would say he’s sorry now appears to be a strange move, but the new coach of the Bruins had been dogged by questions about the incident. He initially refused to talk about it, saying at an introductory presser last week that it happened a long time 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,” Alford said at the April 2 press event. “I followed everything that I was told to do.”
But evidence showed that Steve Alford continued to defend Pierce even after seeing the evidence against the player.
On Thursday, Steve Alford changed course and said he’s sorry.
“At that time, I instinctively and mistakenly came to his defense before knowing all the facts,” Alford said in the statement released by UCLA. “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.”
The situation was heaping bad publicity on UCLA, with members of the media attacking Alford and athletic director Dan Guerrero. UCLA officials likely now hope Steve Alford she he’s sorry in time to stop some of the criticism.