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UCLA Vehemently Denies Accusations of Grade-Change Pressure

A former UCLA academic advisor goes to the Chronicle of Higher Education to accuse a UCLA Basketball Assistant Coach of pressuring him to ask a professor to change a player's grade.

UCLA assistant basketball coach Duane Broussard with Tony Parker
UCLA assistant basketball coach Duane Broussard with Tony Parker
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an allegation from a former academic advisor that UCLA Assistant Basketball Duane Broussard pressured him to change a grade for a basketball player.

Mr. Collier, 33, who had just completed his first year on the job, contacted Duane Broussard, an assistant coach and the team's academic liaison. The player, Mr. Collier explained, had received a C-minus in a communications class but needed a B to participate in team activities. The assistant coach, according to Mr. Collier, proposed a plan: Approach the professor about changing the player's grade.

UCLA and Broussard vehemently deny the allegation:

That is not how the university sees it. Christina A. Rivera, who oversees the 16-person academic-support unit and who was Mr. Collier's direct supervisor, says that, while UCLA's players have made mistakes, its coaches take academics seriously and have never breached academic protocol. "We never feel pressure; this is a special place," she says. "I wouldn't work here if I did."

Mr. Broussard denies encouraging a grade change. "To insinuate that I would pressure anyone to do something unethical or not follow policy is, quite frankly, insulting and just flat wrong," he said in a written statement to The Chronicle.

UCLA also has issued several cease-and-desist letters related to the allegation.

In response to allegations that Mr. Collier planned to make in this article, the university sent him a cease-and-desist letter. It demanded that he halt disclosure of student data and turn over the student records in his possession. The university also sent a cease-and-desist letter to The Chronicle, cautioning against publishing information obtained from confidential educational records.

Initially, these thoughts come to mind:

  • It sure looks like Collier may be seeking attention here at best and is a disgruntled employee at worse. If he was serious about this he would have broken the story sooner and/or went to the NCAA. Going to the Chronicle of Higher Education smacks of desperation.
  • The Chronicle almost puts a caveat in the story that the UCLA problems may "seem small" compared to the crap going on at North Carolina, Syracuse and others. The fact is this incident while problematic is SMALL if it is true compared to the deep problems at NC and Syracuse.
  • To booster his allegations of problems at UCLA Collier also alleges student athletes miss classes. My problem with this is I think all students miss classes. This is not a recent development as most classes do not take attendance. Back in my day, we had Lecture notes, and very few had perfect attendance records. Now you have more options. Again, I am not saying that, if true, this is a good thing, but rather, I am saying that, if true, this is not a North Carolina or Syracuse level problem.
At the same time, there is one part of the article which is particularly troubling and leaves the reader questioning UCLA's actions in this situation. The article states:

Just before the new year, Ms. Rivera emailed Mr. Collier, acknowledging that the fall season had been particularly difficult for him and that he needed a "well-deserved break." As he looked to get out, she turned over his men’s-basketball responsibilities to another staff member.

According to the Chronicle article, Rivera wrote in her email (emphasis added):

I also want the rest of your time at UCLA to be positive, emotionally and professionally, and I think that continuing to work with men’s basketball will continue to take an emotional toll on you, especially since I do not see the coaching staff changing their ways. Focusing solely on women’s basketball will provide you with an opportunity to not participate in such an unhealthy environment and allow you to continue to make a real difference with a team that is more receptive and willing to engage academically.

The contents of this email begs a few questions:

So, does Rivera's email acknowledge that the UCLA Men's Basketball program have an unhealthy academic environment? And, more importantly, shouldn't all UCLA teams be receptive and willing to engage academically?

Jim Harrick was fired from UCLA for allegedly falsifying an expense report. By that standard, shouldn't Steve Alford and Duane Broussard be held responsible for this appearance of impropriety?

Steve Alford may have delegated day-to-day academic responsibilities to Coach Broussard, but that does not absolve him for any failures which occur on his watch.

If Broussard did, in fact, apply grade-change pressure, both Broussard and Alford need to be held accountable.