UCLA’s decision to hire Steve Alford has put an ugly chapter of University of Iowa men’s basketball history back into the spotlight.
Alford has received strong criticism from California and Iowa pundits since taking over as the Bruins’ men’s basketball coach. The reason? Alford’s handling of the Pierre Pierce cases a decade ago.
Now Pierce has decided to speak out.
Pierce was charged with sexually assaulting a Hawkeye female student-athlete in 2002. A deal was struck to reduce Pierce’s charge to misdemeanor assault causing injury for his admission of guilt. Pierce was convicted again in 2005 after threatening a victim with a knife and served 11 months in prison.
Thursday, after a week of intense media scrutiny, former Iowa coach Alford apologized for his handling of the Pierce situation in a statement:
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.
Reporter Daniel Libit of ChicagoSideSports.com spoke with Pierce, 29, on Friday to get his take on Alford’s public apology.
“I don’t have an issue with anything he had to say,” Pierce said. “He has always been in my corner since he recruited me, so I have nothing—you will never find me saying anything about coach.”
According to Libit’s story, Alford and Pierce still speak occasionally. Pierce called to congratulate Alford after he accepted the UCLA job.
“I heard the news when I was in France still and the first thing I did was give him a call and congratulate him,” Pierce said. “We still speak form time to time.”
Last week, Iowa City Press-Citizen sports columnist Pat Harty wrote a column alleging that Pierce once attempted to assault Harty’s niece, when she was a freshman at Iowa.
Libit read Pierce a portion of Harty’s column where he laid out the details of the accusation.
My niece was an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Iowa, who had met Pierce on campus completely by chance. He showed up in her dorm room one afternoon that same fall — unannounced and uninvited — closed the door and refused to leave. I hate to think what might have happened to this bright, beautiful girl had her screams not scared him away.
“I wish Pat Harty nothing but the best, but I can’t respond to everyone’s allegations or false allegations,” Pierce said. “I have moved on from my past. I am not calling it anything. If he wants to say anything about me, he can say it, and do with it what he wants to. At this point, I have moved on from Iowa, the writers, I have moved on from them all—far from them.”
Pierce went on to say that Harty’s allegations “couldn’t be more false.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball