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Coach Steve Alford apologizes to UCLA fans, says he will return contract extension

UCLA basketball Coach Steve Alford apologized for a season he called “unacceptable” and announced in a letter to fans Sunday evening that he would return a previous one-year contract extension.

A UCLA spokesman confirmed that nearly all aspects of Alford’s contract will revert to the original terms. That includes the $10.4-million buyout, paid upon his dismissal, which will now extend only through April 30 of this year. That figure drops to $7.8 million until April 30, 2017; $5.2 million until April 30, 2018; and $2.6 million until April 30, 2019.

Alford is now under contract until the completion of the 2020 season.

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Alford’s letter comes at a time when the UCLA fan base is frustrated after UCLA finished 10th in the Pac-12 Conference and failed to make a postseason tournament.

“The way we finished this past season will eat at me for a long, long time,” Alford wrote. “Our record speaks for itself and is simply unacceptable. There's nothing that I can say or write that will change that fact. This happened under my watch, it begins and it ends with me. The buck stops here.”

UCLA’s lackluster season touched off waves of protest among some UCLA fans. During the season, a petition requesting Alford’s ouster began circulating among fans.

The discontent did not end with the Bruins’ season. Twice last week, a plane flew over UCLA’s campus towing a banner urging UCLA to fire Alford. The coach didn’t mention the banners specifically, but he addressed the general dissatisfaction with the program.

“While I don't expect this letter to change any opinions or take away the pain from this difficult season, I do hope it reflects my commitment to UCLA and shows that we will address areas in which we fell short,” Alford said.

Alford embarked on two NCAA tournament runs in his first two seasons in Westwood before the disappointing third campaign.

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Much of the roster is expected to return next season, and UCLA will add one of the nation’s highest-ranked recruiting classes.

“There will be fierce competition in both the backcourt and frontcourt this off-season, which not only accelerates growth, it builds character,” Alford wrote.

Only one part of Alford’s contract will change from the original 2013 deal: a $10,000 bonus paid if the team exceeds an Academic Progress Rating (APR) of 925. That will now be paid if the team’s APR exceeds 930.

Follow Zach Helfand Twitter: @zhelfand

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