Steve Alford

Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

Bernstein: Nevada Hired A Scumbag In Steve Alford

Alford's past behavior in shaming a sexual assault victim should never be forgotten.

Dan Bernstein
April 12, 2019 - 1:30 pm

(670 The Score) I wrote this originally about UCLA in 2013, and I will continue to adapt it and redeploy it for as long as schools continue to want to bring Steve Alford to their respective communities.

It's the University of Nevada's turn today, as officials made the decision to hire this cretin, either willfully ignorant of previous events or otherwise unconcerned about them. I'm resigned to the fact that this will run some other time, long after Alford's toxicity seeps into some next place that chooses to ignore his past.

The protesters deserve to be heard once again.

They gathered outside Carver-Hawkeye Arena to help bring attention to Alford’s unconscionable behavior regarding his star player-turned-sexual assailant. They stood for what was right after the then-Iowa coach acted to shield a violent criminal and intimidate the victim both publicly and privately.

Seventeen years later, too many have forgotten exactly what Alford did in the aftermath of that incident in Iowa City on Sept. 6, 2002. The University of New Mexico didn’t care, welcoming him for a desert exile long enough to fade too many memories. UCLA didn't care, even after Alford mishandled subsequent questions about it and was eventually forced into a disingenuous public apology, delivered via a prepared written statement.

None of it appears to matter to Nevada, either.

Pierre Pierce performed unwanted sex acts on a female student at his apartment, covering her mouth when she tried to scream. He eventually plea-bargained to a charge of assault causing injury, later issuing a public apology for "inappropriate sexual contact with a fellow student."

Had Alford succeeded in his efforts to strong-arm the victim, it all would have evaporated. The disgusting ploy backfired, however, and only steeled her resolve to pursue criminal charges.

Alford enlisted the help of close friend Jim Goodrich, the campus representative for Christian group Athletes in Action who often traveled with the team and conducted Bible study sessions. Per specific instruction from Alford, the victim was invited to what she was told was a "prayer meeting," at which she was urged to back off and not cause problems for a basketball program that could overpower her.

Don’t make waves, honey, in the name of Jesus. The Lord wants you to shut up, if you know what’s good for you.

According to the official report from the special committee that later investigated the handling of the case after the ugly facts emerged, "The desire to facilitate an informal resolution of the matter may have had the opposite result. The committee recommends that the athletic department take steps to limit the involvement of outside advisors, religious or otherwise."

The report also slapped down Alford for his boorish public statements trying to defend his player from any criticism.

"I totally believe he’s innocent," Alford affirmed back then at Big Ten Media Day. "I believed it from day one, and I still believe it."

He clearly knew otherwise, having already tried to make the victim go away. Still, he took every opportunity to vouch for Pierce and question the victim, including during an interview with the Boers & Bernstein Show on 670 The Score in 2003. Shortly thereafter, the Chicago Tribune reported, "Sources close to the victim say that hearing Alford go out of his way to defend the moral fiber of Pierce these past few months and turning it into another one of his all-for-one sermons was, in fact, the most painful aspect of trying to move on."

The school’s report later listed this behavior among its concerns. It concluded:

"While coach Alford believed he was acting as he had been directed in making the statements he made to the media, one set of those statements – confirming his certainty in Pierce’s innocence – 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."

After the plea deal, Alford was also rebuked by Johnson County state’s attorney Patrick White, who told the Daily Iowan, "We have difficulty getting convictions in these kinds of cases because victims are afraid of how they will be treated or how juries will look at them."

As described in the Tribune story, a furious Alford responded to White’s comments by initiating a phone call that became a shouting match.

And this sweet guy Pierce — the person on whom Alford staked his own, righteous word – was arrested again in 2005. He pled guilty to two charges of first-degree burglary, assault with intent to commit sexual assault and fourth-degree criminal mischief. He spent 11 months in jail before being released on probation.

Every bit of this information was available to Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth, who celebrated the introduction of Alford as his new head coach Friday by saying, "There is no better coach than Steve Alford to continue the rise of Nevada basketball."

That's too bad.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​