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After a lackluster season, UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford returns his contract extension

Steve Alford

UCLA missed the NCAA Tournament this year. Didn't even come close, really. The Bruins finished 15-17 overall, and just 6-12 in Pac-12 play. Any hope of a miracle run through the Pac-12 Tournament and to the Big Dance ended in the coldest way possible, with a 24-point first-round beatdown delivered by crosstown rival (and tournament-bound) USC.

In football terms, that's the equivalent of Alabama posting a 4-8 season, ending with a 30-point loss to Auburn.

As you can guess, the natives in Los Angeles handled it about as well as Alabama would a four-win season -- with multiple planes calling for head coach Steve Alford's firing.

As a response, Alford announced Sunday night he has returned the one-year contract extension earned after taking the Bruins to the Sweet 16 in 2014, his first in Westwood. (Alford again led UCLA to the second round in 2015.)

Here's how Alford announced it:

Dear UCLA Family, Friends, Alumni and Supporters,

Since leaving the locker room in Las Vegas, I've spent countless hours dissecting our program, evaluating our staff, meeting with our young men and breaking down game film to address our struggles and begin the process of improving as a team.

I know none of that makes the ending to our season any better or changes how we all feel about our year, but constant review and improvement is imperative in my job - a job that I take extremely seriously and one that's an absolute privilege to hold.

The fact remains that no matter how much time passes, the way we finished this past season will eat at me for a long, long time. 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.

Because of this, I let Dan Guerrero know that I wanted to return the one-year contract extension I received after the 2013-14 season. This request has since been processed. At the end of the day, year three was clearly not up to UCLA standards. My coaching staff and I fell short not only of our own expectations, but the expectations of Dan, the Chancellor and you, our fans. As a coaching staff, we intend to earn that extension back.

This has been a difficult time, there's no doubt about that. Difficult times, however, build resolve.

It's easy to just say we'll be better next year. We're excited to prove it, and that begins now. Over the course of my career, teams that I've led have owned, on average, a defensive rank in the top 50. This year we ranked outside the top 100. This can never happen again. We must return to the basics and instill defensive fundamentals in our young men from day one of permissible workouts.

While our returning letter-winners are upset about this past year and can't wait to work on their games with our coaches over the next few months, on June 20th, they will be pushed even harder with the arrival of our new class in Westwood. There will be fierce competition in both the backcourt and frontcourt this offseason, which not only accelerates growth, it builds character.

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.

At this point, it's well documented that basketball is my life. I came to UCLA to experience the pinnacle of the sport. I wanted to bring my passion for this game to the place where the game itself was ultimately taken to unprecedented levels of grace, dignity and success. In the process, it's become my home.

I hope you'll continue to support our fine young men that will be working this offseason to get better as well as the new class of young men coming here this summer, eager to experience everything that is great about UCLA. I know our entire program is already looking forward to future successes.

Coach Alford

Alford's deal will revert back to the original one he signed upon arriving from New Mexico in 2013, which now runs through the 2020 season -- as opposed to 2021 -- and, most importantly, drops the buyout from $10.4 million to $7.8 million as of May 1.

Whether this can keep the pitchfork brigade at bay remains to be seen, but Alford's move is a measure of accountability unheard of in the coaching world.