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Has Steve Alford Given UCLA Grounds to Terminate Him For Cause?

Do the Bruins finally have a way to get out from under Alford’s contract without giving him a huge payday?

NCAA Basketball: Colorado at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

You know, a lot of folks have argued that UCLA was waiting until after Steve Alford’s buyout drops after April 30th in order to fire him. That’s a pipe dream because of the way the contract is written.

Sure, Alford’s buyout does, in fact, drop by $2.6M come May 1. But, I went and re-read the contract details this morning and realized that everyone has focused on the buyout amount, but failed to see the language immediately before the buyout amounts.

The “Termination Without Cause” section of Alford’s contract states that the

University shall only be obligated to pay as follows: The amount of Base Salary, Talent Fee and Deferred Compensation identified in Sections 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 of this Agreement during the remainder of the contract year (ending April 30) in which the termination occurred; and....

It then lists the buyout amounts. In other words, if UCLA were to fire Steve Alford without cause on May 1, UCLA would still owe Alford $2.6M for the contract year ending April 30, 2019, plus a $3.6M buyout for the remainder of the contract, making it essentially no different than if they fired him without cause on April 29th.

So, let’s put that whole buyout drop date pipe dream on the shelf, shall we?

All of that said, the fact remains that Steve Alford’s handling of a personnel matter may just have given the UCLA Athletic Department grounds to fire him for cause, which would mean they owe him absolutely nothing, as in nada, zilch and zero.

To understand why, I’m going to paraphrase old New York and DC Sportscaster Warner Wolf. For the uninitiated, Wolf’s trademark was “Let’s go to the videotape!”

Let’s go to the contract!

Specifically, let’s look at Section 5.1 Termination for Cause. It reads:

A violation by coach of any of the provisions hereinabove stated shall constitute a breach of this Agreement and cause for termination of this Agreement. Acts which may be considered a breach of this Agreement include, but are not limited to, acts of dishonesty, theft or misappropriation of University property, fighting on the job, insubordination, acts endangering others or other serious misconduct. Upon any such breach, the Director may, at his option and in his sole discretion, but subject to the provisions of Section 5.1.3 of this Agreement, terminate this Agreement. Upon any such termination, any and all future rights and obligation of the parties hereto and hereunder shall cease.

According to this section, acts of dishonesty constitute acts which may be considered a breach of the Agreement.

And, this may be what does Alford in.

If you read through yesterday’s article, you probably read Ben Bolch’s tweets including this one:

In other words, Steve Alford lied to an employee who he said had “done a great job” regarding a personnel matter.

Alford threw his boss Dan Guerrero under the bus and, obviously, didn’t bother to give his boss so much as a heads up about it.

It makes Dan Guerrero look like the bad guy in all of this when, in fact, the bad guy is Steve Alford, the guy who wanted to pray about it while telling his employee that he had to go find another job. I sure hope Alford prayed for forgiveness for lying to his now-fired assistant coach and for throwing his boss under the bus.

Nevermind the fact that Alford’s suggested praying brings to mind the whole prayer meeting with Pierre Pierce’s victim when he was back at Iowa.

The fact is that Alford has made his boss look bad by lying about who made a personnel decision.

In my book, that qualifies as an act of dishonesty, especially if I’m the guy Alford made look an idiot when confronted the next day by the guy Alford was letting go.

Does it rise to being grounds for termination with cause?

I sure don’t know, but if I’m Dan Guerrero, I’d be discussing this with UCLA’s personnel people over the next few days and, if it means that I have a chance to get a $6.2M albatross off my neck, I sure as heck would do so.

Now, I know both of the remaining Alford defenders out there are going to ask the question, “Well, who are you going to replace him with?”

I don’t know, but, given that this is the UCLA baskeball job, I’m sure they would find somebody.

I do know at least one guy who probably deserves some consideration, even if he doesn’t eventually get the job: David Grace.

Go Bruins.