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Report tells of scandal at UCLA basketball program

UCLA head coach Ben Howland watches this team during the semifinals against Memphis, Saturday, April 5, 2008, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

February 29, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
UCLA men's basketball coach Ben Howland walked the Westwood campus Thursday on what he said was not a great day.

In a lengthy story released by Sports Illustrated's George Dohrman, the Bruins basketball program is described as having drifted away from the UCLA way.

Dohrman spent two months speaking with players and staff from the past four UCLA teams, uncovering allegations of drug and alcohol use by players, fistfights and that Howland verbally abusing his staff, student managers and the weakest players.

"As you can imagine, I was surprised as some of the assertions that I had no knowledge of or are simply untrue or taken out of context," Howland said in a teleconference.

The Bruins made three straight Final Four appearances with good players who were also good kids. But the article says Howland started recruiting top-ranked players while sometimes sacrificing character.

"I'm angry these allegations of a select few cast doubt onto all that is great about UCLA athletics," said UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. "Ben has admitted he's made some mistakes in evaluation, whether it was an evaluation of talent or evaluation of character, and we have had to live with that."

Reeves Nelson, who was kicked off the team in December, is labeled a bully in the SI story.

Nelson admitted to purposely injuring teammates in practice, including legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden's great grandson Tyler Trapani, prompting many UCLA supporters to ask what Coach Wooden would think.

Howland seemed confident that he will keep his job beyond the season.

"I would never purport to ever be able to live up to him and what he accomplished and who he was as a man and as a coach," Howland said. "Of course I strive to follow his ideals."