Saldana Won’t Return As UCLA Coach
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Todd Saldana, whose college degree turned out to be fraudulent, won’t return as UCLA’s men’s soccer coach next season.
The university said Thursday it would honor its contract with Saldana through June, but he agreed to step down now.
The 40-year-old Saldana coached the UCLA men for three seasons, guiding the Bruins to a 43-17-4 record and into the NCAA tournament each year. They reached the national semifinals in 1999.
Saldana was named coach of the UCLA women’s team in January 1998 after serving as coach of Loyola Marymount’s men’s team the previous year.
Saldana, who coached the Bruins’ women for one year before taking over the men’s program, had been an assistant coach for the UCLA men under Sigi Schmid from 1989-95.
Athletic director Peter Dalis said in a statement the school learned during the recently completed season that Saldana had received a degree from Columbia State University, identified as a diploma mill.
``We don’t feel there was any intent on coach Saldana’s part to mislead the university,″ Dalis said. ``When he applied and was hired at UCLA as head women’s soccer coach in 1998, coach Saldana believed he had received a degree from an institution that would satisfy UCLA’s expectations regarding undergraduate education.″
Law enforcement authorities shut down Columbia State in 1998 _ after Saldana was hired by UCLA. The school said it assumed Columbia State was an accredited institution that accepted Saldana’s credits from other colleges he attended in the areas where he played professional soccer.
``I was distressed to learn recently from UCLA’s athletic department that Columbia State University was regarded as a `diploma mill,‴ Saldana said.
``I spent more than a year completing correspondence courses from Columbia State, reading textbooks and writing papers. I understood I was following a prescribed course of instruction designed by that school to supplement the credits I had already earned from El Camino College.
``While I do not equate the receipt of an academic diploma with one’s ability to coach and administer a soccer program, I don’t want to distract or detract from the successful men’s soccer program that we have built at UCLA. I will do everything in my power to help achieve a smooth transition for the players, administration and future coaching staff.″
Dalis stated UCLA has an expectation that all head coaches have received undergraduate degrees from accredited four-year institutions.