Fire HIM!

A mediocre record and coddling thugs on his team didn't keep ASU football coach Dirk Koetter from getting a big raise

Commentary

Koetter, so far, is just another average college coach with lofty goals.

Koetter's teams have shown flashes of greatness, but have lacked the physical conditioning and the mental toughness to defeat the nation's best teams. These traits once defined Sun Devil football, particularly during the smash-mouth era of Frank Kush, when every team in the country feared playing in Sun Devil Stadium.

Koetter's pass-oriented offense, porous defense and sloppy kicking game have prevented the Sun Devils from reaching Bowl Championship Series games. Instead, ASU has had to settle for three lesser postseason bowl games, winning two.

Koetter's lackluster .541 winning percentage overstates his success.

During his tenure, the Sun Devils have only once beaten a Top 10 team, rallying behind quarterback Andrew Walter to defeat sixth-ranked University of Oregon in a 2002 shootout in Eugene, 45-42.

Koetter has lost 10 games to Top 10 teams, including a crushing last-second loss last year to No. 5 LSU and a season-wrecking, fourth-quarter collapse against No. 1 USC.

ASU's record against Top 20 teams is an equally disappointing 2-16, with the only victory besides the Oregon win coming in 2004 against Iowa.

The Sun Devils have also been walloped by unranked teams. One of the worst debacles was a 55-38 Homecoming loss to California in 2002 that left Sun Devil Stadium nearly empty midway through the fourth quarter.

Off the field, things have been much worse during Koetter's reign.

A decade after ASU gained national infamy when basketball guard Stevin "Hedake" Smith shaved points to get out of a gambling debt, the university was once again in the national spotlight when it comes to criminal behavior by a college athlete.

Koetter says he was shocked and horrified when he learned that Loren Wade had shot and killed Brandon Falkner in a fit of jealousy. But Koetter shouldn't have been surprised.

According to press and police reports, there were clear indications that Wade was on a crash course in the fall of 2004 and early 2005.

In September 2004, Wade made a bizarre statement to Koetter. He told the coach that he was afraid of getting hurt in a game and wanted to quit the team. This was very unusual coming from a running back who had set the school's yardage record for a freshman in 2003.

Koetter reacted immediately. He knew the loss of Wade would be a huge blow for the 2004 football season. Koetter was so concerned that he ordered Wade to see a sports psychologist. The player went to a few sessions and then stopped.

Later that fall, after playing three games, Wade was suspended from the team after reports surfaced that he had improperly received money from an ASU employee in apparent violation of NCAA rules. He was red-shirted for the season.

In November 2004, Koetter received reports that Wade had threatened to kill a female gymnast. Wade was said to have threatened the woman, who was a friend of his girlfriend, saying, "I'm crazy . . . you don't know where I'm from. I'll . . . kill you."

Wade was upset with the gymnast because she had told his girlfriend that she had seen him with another woman.

Koetter, and former athletic director Gene Smith, learned of Wade's threat from ASU women's gymnastics coach John Spini. Wade later apologized to the gymnast.

But neither Koetter nor Smith required Wade to seek counseling, even though the football coach had directed his star player to do that a few months earlier when Wade had threatened to quit the team.

Wade's quitting the team apparently was of much greater concern to Koetter than his threatening to kill a female ASU student-athlete.

On March 3, 2005, Wade's girlfriend, Haley van Blommestein, called Chandler police, saying Wade was threatening to destroy her belongings in her apartment. Three days later, ASU women's soccer coach Ray Leone told Koetter that his players were concerned that Wade had a gun (Sun Devil athletes are forbidden to carry firearms).

On March 7, the day after learning about reports that Wade may have a gun, Koetter met with his star running back to discuss his behavior.

Two days later, on March 9, van Blommestein again called Chandler police saying Wade was coming to wreck her apartment and had threatened to kill her. On the same day, one of van Blommestein's former soccer teammates was so concerned about her safety that she called the Scottsdale Police Department telling the cops she thought Wade had a gun.

At this point, it should have been clear to Koetter that the situation was spiraling out of control and that ASU authorities -- including athletic director Gene Smith -- should be notified about Wade's further threats and reports that he had a gun. Smith didn't learn about the threats Wade made in March until after the shooting.

Instead, Koetter again discussed the threatening behavior with Wade and van Blommestein during a telephone call. Wade reportedly denied having the gun. But once again, Koetter never directed Wade to seek counseling, nor did the coach notify ASU police or student affairs personnel of the off-campus incidents.

Rather than take this opportunity to at least reprimand his star player, Koetter reinstated Wade to the football team for the upcoming spring practices. The first one was on March 21.

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