Gene Bartow, basketball coach and athletic director at the University of Alabama Birmingham, Wednesday apologized for making comments critical of the late Paul (Bear) Bryant, University of Alabama football coach and athletic director from 1957 to '82.
Bartow's comments about Bryant were part of a letter to David Berst, NCAA assistant executive director for enforcement, written in November of 1991. Portions of the letter appeared Wednesday in The Times.
Bartow, who followed John Wooden as UCLA basketball coach, wrote in the letter that he believed his life would have been in danger had the NCAA delved too deeply into the activities of the late Sam Gilbert, the Bruin booster who was closely aligned with the program during the Wooden years.
Bartow also urged Berst to investigate the Alabama basketball program and noted that several football coaches whose programs had drawn NCAA sanctions--including Jackie Sherrill, Danny Ford and Charley Pell--were "trained" by Bryant.
In a statement issued Wednesday by UAB, Bartow said:
"I had great respect for Coach Bryant as the greatest football coach who ever lived and sincerely apologize to family, friends, former players and fans who were offended.
"I would also apologize to the coaches who worked under Coach Bryant who were mentioned. . . . They are all fine coaches, and I'm not sure why I put that in my letter.
"This letter was written out of deep frustration about our apparent inability to recruit the same high-caliber players Alabama was getting under their former staff. I would like to emphasize that I have the greatest respect for the current athletic staff . . . at Alabama.
"I was extremely upset at the NCAA enforcement staff at the time, especially with what I saw as their failure to enforce NCAA rules. . . . "
Bartow also said in the statement:
"I think it is unfortunate that, after almost two years, a writer from the Los Angeles Times would seemingly receive confidential information. . . . Without question, I admit to writing the NCAA on a few occasions . . . and I am sure that others have written the NCAA staff a time or two to comment on our program."