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UCLA Coach's Degree Is From 'Diploma Mill'

January 26, 2002|ERIC STEPHENS and STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

UCLA men's soccer Coach Todd Saldana is facing scrutiny for holding a bachelor's degree from a university since shut down as an unaccredited "diploma mill."

UCLA requires its head coaches to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited school.

"We've been aware of the situation for a while but can't comment because it involves a personnel issue and [Saldana] has obtained legal counsel," said UCLA spokesman Marc Dellins, who declined to comment on what, if any, action would be taken.

Saldana was among thousands duped into believing the university that issued his bachelor's degree was a reputable school, and never intended to mislead anyone, said his attorney, Bruce Gelb.

Saldana, who recently completed his third season, received a bachelor's in psychology in 1997 from Columbia State University, shut down the following year by the Louisiana attorney general's office for allegedly turning out fictitious degrees.

Reached at his home Friday, Saldana declined to comment.

UCLA administrators also refused to comment, although Dellins said the issue surfaced before the well-chronicled resume problems of George O'Leary caused a national uproar and his resignation as Notre Dame football coach.

"Todd believed that Columbia State University was a legally accredited university.... He did take actual courses and he did have textbooks that required him to read and, in some cases, write a report on," said Gelb, who said Saldana completed classwork via the Internet.

"He's an innocent victim of CSU as were apparently thousands of others."

Columbia State University was shut down in 1998 by Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, who said consumers were lured to CSU by the promise of an accredited degree. However, Ieyoub said: "There is no school. No campus. No professors. Not one person qualified to run such an institution of higher education. It's bogus--a complete scam."

UCLA is 43-17-4 in Saldana's tenure and he led the team to the NCAA semifinals in 1999.

He was a Bruin assistant from 1989-94, was men's and women's head coach at Cal Poly Pomona in 1995-96, and was men's head coach at Loyola Marymount in 1997.

He returned to UCLA in 1998 as women's head coach.

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