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UCLA Coach Steve Alford, New Mexico haggling over contract details

University of New Mexico says the basketball coach owes them $1 million under contract extension terms. Alford has offered $200,000 and says the new pact never became effective.

May 01, 2013|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA Coach Steve Alford offered the University of New Mexico $200,000.
UCLA Coach Steve Alford offered the University of New Mexico $200,000. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

UCLA basketball Coach Steve Alford is still trying to disentangle himself from the University of New Mexico.

New Mexico says Alford owes the university $1 million, which was the buyout amount in a contract extension that was to take effect April 1, two days after UCLA hired him. Alford, in a letter to the school, has offered $200,000 under the terms of his previous contract.

Alford was required to give 30 days' notice, so New Mexico officials believe he is therefore bound by the terms of what would have been his new contract.

In his letter, Alford said the new contract "never became effective because UNM and I never reached agreement on a final written employment contract including those terms."

UCLA gave Alford a $200,000 signing bonus when he was hired, part of a seven-year, $18.2-million contract. When UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero was asked about Alford's New Mexico buyout at that time, he said, "Generally speaking, it's the coach himself that has that responsibility, but we'll work out details if necessary."

Asked Tuesday whether UCLA might help Alford pay off any buyout, a university spokesman said UCLA could not comment due to the legal matters involved.

Michael Waterstone, a professor at Loyola Law School, predicted there would be a compromise in resolving the matter. "I would be surprised if New Mexico structured either contract in such a way that it is clearly entitled to a million, but it is certainly possible," he said.

New Mexico officials are unhappy because Alford jumped to UCLA 10 days after he reportedly agreed to the contract extension — and without telling New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs that he was considering another offer.

"I went to bed Friday night and woke up to a text message from Dan Guerrero and a voice message from Steve," Krebs told reporters on the day UCLA announced Alford's hiring.

Alford has said both he and Guerrero tried reaching Krebs the night before UCLA's announcement. "I know Dan reached out to him the night before and I reached out to him the night before," Alford said. "Things did move very, very quickly. ... I did talk to him. I sent him a text on Friday night. He didn't answer. The first thing Saturday morning I called and talked to him."

By then, though, he and UCLA had reached a deal.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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