By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) It's only been ten years, but now Steve Alford says he's sorry.
Something odd must have occurred in the last nine days, too, because this contrition was nonexistent at Alford's introductory press conference April 2, when he defiantly proclaimed that he handled the Pierre Pierce sexual assault incident exactly as his bosses wanted.
"I followed everything that the University of Iowa, the administration, the lawyers that were hired…I followed everything that I was told to do," he said.
Today, we get this: "I instinctively and mistakenly came to his defense before knowing all the facts."
That's a lie, first of all. Alford was consulted regarding a plea deal that was being worked out when he said what he did at Big Ten Media Day in 2002. He knew his player was indeed guilty, and didn't care.
Secondly, amid the over-lawyered damage-control is no mention of what caused the victim to pursue charges in the first place – the nefarious use of a campus Christian organization to intimidate the victim. Alford was shamed for doing so after the school's official investigation, which concluded that the victim was so dismayed by what was presented to her at the purported "prayer meeting" that she redoubled her efforts to have Pierce punished.
Alford is only sorry that people remember what he did and what he said, and that some are reminding everyone about his vile character.
UCLA AD Dan Guerrero weaseled out his own statement, referring to a singular "error in judgment" by Alford, which minimized the series of calculated decisions made to protect a sexual assailant, keeping on campus only for him to strike again in 2005. We also learned last week of yet another frightening encounter between Pierce and a female student after the first crime, which also was simply ignored by Alford and his lieutenants. The errors in judgment are legion, and consistent.
The student newspaper's editorial board demanded an apology from Alford yesterday, but sadly fell short in allowing for such a narrow interpretation of the misdeeds. He was able to issue a fraudulent statement addressing merely one aspect of the sordid saga, instead of being forced to confront the more stomach-turning aspects of the case.
This is weak, transparent stuff from both Alford and the man who hired him, and it's shamefully late. Instead of allowing this phony regret to quiet the increasing rumblings of dissatisfaction in Westwood, it should cause a new round of pointed questions about who knew what and when, both at Iowa and during the vetting process at UCLA.
It's heartening to see that many care. The protests by enraged women's groups eventually hastened Alford's departure from Iowa City, and a student body and faculty as socially aware as that of UCLA deserves to be informed of just what kind of human being is now one of their most prominent public representatives.
The fact that the school felt it necessary to release such a carefully-worded release is evidence that awareness of Alford's past – and, more significantly, an understanding of his real nature – is causing discomfort for a proud program and prestigious university.
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