Parrish Misses the Mark on Critique of UCLA, Alford Buyout

July 9, 2013
Parrish Misses the Mark on Critique of UCLA, Alford Buyout

Today Gary Parrish of staunchly critiqued the contract between UCLA and men’s head basketball coach Steve Alford in his piece, “Why UCLA’s buyout in Steve Alford’s contract makes no sense for UCLA“. Parrish writes:

I just don’t know how it makes sense for UCLA.

I’m not even sure why it’s necessary.

I realize New Mexico fans would probably tell me it’s because Alford is a job-jumper, that the man agreed in principle to a 10-year contract with the Lobos last March just days before he accepted UCLA’s offer. And I get that. But to them, I’d say, you’re New Mexico and not UCLA. New Mexico is the type of place a succesful (sic) coach might voluntarily leave for the chance to work at a tradition-rich school like UCLA. But UCLA isn’t the type of school a succesful (sic) coach would voluntarily leave for just about anything, which makes a buyout of this magnitude unneccessary (sic) bordering on idiotic from UCLA’s perspective.

“We wanted the commitment to be strong on both sides,” UCLA senior associate athletic director Mark Harlan told the Los Angeles Times. “We didn’t want him going anywhere.”

My question: Where on earth would Alford go?

It’s UCLA, It’s UCLA!
Parrish rants against UCLA’s agreement as “bordering on idiotic”, but in the same sentence proclaims that UCLA isn’t the type of school a successful coach would leave for just about anything.

Among other issues, we believe Parrish fails to appropriately consider the uniqueness of UCLA. Was the heat that Ben Howland faced while head coach “bordering on idiotic”? Even if Alford brings the program to three Final Fours, history says things could turn on him quickly.

Whether it’s basketball or another career, there’s a lot more to working than just the money. If an environment is exceptionally challenging, difficult or even “unfair”, some people will want to move on. Even if it’s for less money.

Parrish also opines that former head coach Ben Howland should have left the school a year ago. Parrish didn’t address the, “where on Earth would he go” question for Howland, whose guaranteed compensation was only $300,000 less last season than Alford will earn this year.

The Money
The reality is that with a nice season or two, Alford could command more money than he’s making at UCLA. Parrish seems to think the compensation in Alford’s contract is extraordinary, but the truth is that it’s not. He’s being well compensated, but it’s not as if he’d need to take a dramatic pay cut or couldn’t make more elsewhere in the near future.

Recruiting and Stability
Contracts are made to be broken. We say it time and time again. Kids understand that a coach who has signed an agreement with a school that extends out for many years won’t necessarily stay for the duration of the contract.

At many programs, especially one such as UCLA, a valid concern of a prospective recruit is the continuing employment of their coach. Most buyout fees do little to nothing to alleviate these concerns. UCLA has in fact created a competitive advantage. Due to the buyout provisions that UCLA and Alford have agreed to, recruits and returning players can feel far more confident that Steve Alford will remain as their head coach than they otherwise could have without significant buyout figures.

If anything, this contract is refreshing. A contract that has a term of employment that has some meaning. Image that.

Whether Alford and UCLA are a great fit for one another is an entirely different question. However, it’s clear they are committed to working on sustaining a strong program together. Unlike most combinations, Alford and UCLA have the contract to prove it.

That’s (Westwood) a hard place to leave, man.

So says Mr. Parrish. But he sees only his perceived “quality of life”, “rich tradition” and a “ton of money”. We believe that’s a naive view. Imagine three years from now if UCLA was trying to explain why they are shocked that Alford left without paying a significant penalty. “We didn’t think he’d want to leave after three great years here. We didn’t think a large buyout was necessary. Doesn’t he know it’s beautiful and sunny here in Westwood?”

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