Jan. 31, 2002
UCLA announced today that it would honor its contract with Head Men's Soccer Coach Todd Saldana, but that it will not renew the contract when it expires in June 2002. Coach Saldana has agreed to step aside early to help achieve a smooth transition for the student-athletes, administration, and the future coaching staff.
Saldana has been the men's head coach for the past three seasons (1999-2001). He was named head coach of the UCLA women's program in January 1998 after serving as head coach of the men's program at Loyola Marymount in 1997. Prior to returning to UCLA as a head coach in 1998, he had served as an assistant coach of the men's program from 1989 through 1995.
"In the middle of the 2001 soccer season, it came to our attention that the college from which Coach Saldana had received a degree, Columbia State University, had been identified as a diploma mill. We took the time to confirm the information and waited until after the holiday season to address the matter with Coach Saldana," said Athletic Director Peter Dalis. "We don't feel that there was any intent on Coach Salda?a's part to mislead the University. When he applied and was hired at UCLA as the 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." Saldana was hired as UCLA's head women's soccer coach in January 1998 and law enforcement authorities shut down Columbia State University later that year.
An exceptional soccer player, Coach Saldana had the opportunity to play professional soccer immediately after high school. UCLA assumed that Columbia State University was an accredited institution that had accepted Coach Saldana's credits from other colleges that he had attended in the areas where he had 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. I had submitted my junior college transcripts to Columbia State, spoke by phone with admissions counselors, and was later issued a degree after completing the additional course requirements."
"While I do not equate the receipt of an academic credential 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've built here at UCLA" said Saldana. "I will do everything in my power to help achieve a smooth transition for the players, administration, and the future coaching staff."
"Given this situation, Coach Saldana believes it is best to step aside now for the good of the program," said Dalis. "This is a very difficult situation for all involved. Todd has done a fine job during his time as a coach at UCLA and we wish him well." Dalis clarified that UCLA has an expectation that all head coaches have received undergraduate degrees from accredited four-year institutions.
Saldana posted an overall record of 43-17-4 during his three years as head coach of the men's program at UCLA, earning an NCAA tournament berth each of his three years, and leading the men to the NCAA semifinals in 1999.