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UCLA Official Accused of Impeding Probe

December 08, 1990|ELLIOTT ALMOND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A UCLA assistant chancellor has been accused of trying to suppress information for an NCAA inquiry into the recruiting of Bruin basketball star Don MacLean.

Jack Hirsch, a former UCLA assistant basketball coach, said he was told it would be in his best interest to stop his attorney, Jerry Roth, from talking with an NCAA investigator.

Hirsch, who assisted Walt Hazzard, said his supervisor at the time of the incident, John Sandbrook, assistant chancellor and executive assistant, issued the order last March.

Such an order would be a violation of NCAA rules against unethical conduct.

"That is categorically untrue," Sandbrook said Friday. "I'm deeply disappointed that such an untrue statement would be made."

When Hazzard was fired after the 1987-88 season, Hirsch was reassigned and finished his career at UCLA working as an administrative analyst in Sandbrook's office. His contract was not renewed last summer and he filed a personnel grievance against the university.

Roth said he was contacted by the NCAA last March about MacLean. Roth, who once represented Hazzard in contract negotiations, said he told an investigator he would consider answering questions.

While deciding what to do, Roth said, he received a call from Hirsch on Sandbrook's behalf.

"Jack told me that he was asked by Sandbrook to contact me (Roth) and intervene after the NCAA contacted me about Don MacLean," Roth said. "They wanted Jack to influence me from not giving any information. Jack told me he would not intervene."

The NCAA contacted Roth about allegations of minor recruiting violations involving MacLean that were reported in the book, "Raw Recruits."

According to the book, written by Alexander Wolff and Armen Keteyian, UCLA Coach Jim Harrick signed MacLean to a national letter of intent during a 48-hour pre-signing period although the high school All-American from Simi Valley was expected to sign the next day.

A Pacific 10 investigation found no wrongdoing.

Harrick said in a statement: "The matter has already been investigated. I suggest anyone interested in this to talk to (Associate Commissioner) David Price of the Pac-10."

MacLean declined to be interviewed but issued a statement: "Almost a year ago I was questioned by the media regarding my recruitment by UCLA. I stated at that time there were no irregularities. The Pacific 10 Conference investigated the matter and were satisfied there were no violations."

NCAA officials have not pursued the matter since the initial contact with Roth and a subsequent conversation with UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis.

Dalis told The Times last spring: "It's been investigated and nothing was ever found. That's the end of it."

But Sandbrook's involvement could be investigated if it were proven that he had knowledge of recruiting violations, said David A. Didion, an NCAA investigator.

"I would have a lot of suspicions," he said. "I would want to go to the school and say 'let's undo this. What is it (Sandbrook) doesn't want us to discuss?' "

Didion said NCAA officials need evidence pointing to Sandbrook before launching an investigation.

"A staff member could have any number of reasons for telling someone not to talk to someone," Didion said. "We'd need something to sink our teeth into (before pursuing)."

Sandbrook has been with UCLA since 1967 and has been Chancellor Charles Young's special assistant since 1977.

He said he had no knowledge of MacLean's recruitment. He said he is involved with radio and television contract negotiations pertaining to UCLA athletics. He also advises the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Assn. and the Pac-10 on TV contracts for the Rose Bowl game.

"All I can tell you is I know very, very well what responsibilities a university administrator has with respect to the conduct of an intercollegiate athletic program," he said.

Hirsch was the chief assistant during Hazzard's four seasons at UCLA. He recruited MacLean until Hazzard was fired in March of 1988.

Harrick, who coached at Pepperdine, was hired to replace Hazzard and continued to recruit MacLean until signing him.

Sandbrook said he thinks there is a connection between the personnel grievance filed last summer by Hirsch and this week's accusation.

Hirsch has requested an arbitration hearing through UCLA's employee-grievance process to determine whether his job in Sandbrook's office amounted to a violation of his contract.

He is expected to have a formal hearing in January or February, said Darlene D. Skeel, UCLA's director of public information. Skeel and Sandbrook would not discuss the specifics of the case because it is a personnel matter.

Although the grievance will be limited to UCLA's contractual agreement, Christine Masters, Hirsch's labor attorney, said other issues such as wrongful termination, misrepresentation and discrimination might be pursued.

"The grievance hearing is not designed to be the ultimate remedy," Masters said. 'We want to get the truth out and see what's going on in that athletic department."

Hirsch, who lives in Palm Desert and works at a golf course, said: "I hope this formal grievance would bring out the blockbuster truth about my situation with the school over the last five years and I hope Charles Young will attend."

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