Thursday, July 10, 2008

Former Hawk Hoop Coach Alford In NM Political Flap

Steve Alford Steps In It

Former Iowa basketball coach Steve Alford was no stranger to controversy during his stormy tenure at Carver Hawkeye Arena, but that was usually due to poor won-loss records or players in legal trouble.

The Iowa football program seems to have taken on those roles, but Alford is in a controversy again in his new job at the University of New Mexico, this time over his involvement in a hot congressional race.

Joe Monahan's New Mexico Politics site reports that Alford's appearance at a fundraising event for open seat Republican congressional candidate Darren White has been called into question. The event was billed as "An Evening With Coach Steve Alford," and donors could get their picture taken with the coach.

"Paul Krebs, Vice-President for Athletics for UNM, told KKOB-AM radio that he and Alford were unaware that the coach's appearance at the July 16th event at the home of UNM lobbyist Joe Thompson would be used to raise money for White," writes Monahan. "Kreb's assertion that neither he or Alford knew the intent of the event was met with disbelief by some of the radio station's callers. But others strongly felt the non-political Krebs and Alford were duped into participating."

Alford was a registered Republican when he lived in Iowa, but was not politically active.

Other Iowa coaches have had mixed records. Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has stayed out of top of the ticket races, but got involved in a 2006 local primary when a proposed road improvement would have taken part of his property. Women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder has not been political, but her husband David, who served on the West Des Moines City Council before moving east, has been a Republican donor.

Retired coaches have been more active. Wrestling legend Dan Gable has even been touted as a candidate himself. He flirted very briefly with the Democrats, attending a 1997 fall barbecue to meet Senator Paul Wellstone, a former wrestler. But while party activists mobbed Wellstone, they ignored Gable. By the next year he was campaigning for Republicans, most notably then-congressman and fellow wrestler Jim Leach. Gable's face has been featured on Iowa GOP mailings, and he was also involved in the same 2006 local road fight as Ferentz. Last year, Gable escorted John McCain to one of the stations of the cross of caucus politics, Iowa City's Hamburg Inn.

Former football coach Hayden Fry was an early and active George W. Bush backer before the 2000 caucuses.

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