Fire HIM!

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

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Falkner's father, B. Lee Falkner, on February 22 filed a wrongful-death lawsuit naming ASU, the Board of Regents, Gene Smith and Dirk Koetter as defendants.

Falkner's attorney, Don Crampton, says his client "is devastated by the loss of his son, and he thinks it's a tragedy that should have been and could have been prevented."

Crampton says he will seek to obtain the un-redacted version of the university's report and will also seek internal athletic department documents, including e-mails related to Wade's behavior leading up to the shooting.

Dirk Koetter (right)
Photo AP/Wide World
Dirk Koetter (right)
In over her head: ASU athletic director Lisa Love
courtesy of Arizona State Archives
In over her head: ASU athletic director Lisa Love

Though it released e-mails regarding some athletic department matters under the state open-records law, ASU refused New Times' written request to release university e-mails that discussed Wade's behavior, citing federal privacy laws and Arizona Board of Regents policies.

That's right, Arizona State would rather protect the privacy of an alleged murderer than fully disclose to the public all the information it has collected relating to the death of an innocent student.

Crampton says evidence he has seen indicates that the football team's "need for this running back gave them the reasons to be completely lax" with Wade's increasingly threatening and reckless behavior.

It's obvious that the only way the public will find out what else happened in the hours, days, weeks and months leading up to Brandon Falkner's murder will be through the civil suit filed by his father, who, ironically, is an ASU employee.

The sad thing is, Wade wasn't the first prominent running back with serious off-field problems whom Koetter kept on the team until he exploded one time too many.

The running back who replaced Wade in the Sun Devil backfield for most of the 2004 season was Hakim Hill, son of former ASU standout J.D. Hill.

Hakim Hill was convicted in high school of using stolen paintball guns to shoot joggers in 2000. The following year, he was sentenced to two days in jail and fined $1,000 for drunken driving.

Koetter suspended Hill from the team in 2001 after a sexual-assault charge was filed against him in an incident involving a 15-year-old girl in Iowa. In February 2002, Hill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assault causing injury and was reinstated to the team.

After Wade's suspension and an injury to another player, Koetter made Hill his starting tailback. Hill led the Sun Devils in rushing in 2004. But more trouble was ahead. He was kicked off the team before the 2004 Sun Bowl after getting in a fight with a teammate.

So under Koetter's regime, two top running backs have been charged respectively with sexual assault and murder while they were members of the ASU football team.


Loren Wade's absence from the ASU offense was painfully obvious last season. His arrest left a huge hole at running back that the Sun Devils were never able to adequately fill.

If Wade had been in the backfield against USC, it's very possible that the Sun Devils would have defeated the defending national champions in a nationally televised game. ASU was leading with five minutes to play, and a couple of first downs could have been enough to secure the win and put the Devils on track for a Pac-10 championship and a major bowl appearance.

But USC won the game, and the team went into a tailspin, losing to Oregon, Stanford and UCLA, prompting many alums to call for Koetter's firing if he failed to beat archrival Arizona in the season finale.

ASU trailed Arizona most of that game before rallying late in the fourth quarter to beat a bad Wildcats team on a last-second field goal, 23-20. The victory improved ASU's record to 6-5 and earned it an invitation to the two-bit Insight Bowl against an equally underwhelming Rutgers team.

To the surprise of many Sun Devil fans, ASU athletic director Love extended Koetter's contract before ASU played in the Insight Bowl against Rutgers.

Several fans wrote e-mails and letters to Love expressing their frustration with her decision.

"[Dirk Koetter] should be fired not praised," Steve McGee wrote.

"Besides me, many faithful Sun Devil fans are tired of the promises, and losing the big games," wrote Tom Coulson. "Maybe this is why the stadium is only half-full most of the time."

The ire increased when the Sun Devils had to rally to defeat lowly Rutgers, 45-40.

Off the field, Koetter's problems have continued to mount.

Less than a month after he was named in the wrongful-death suit, Koetter was slapped with another lawsuit, this time from a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by ASU football player Darnell Henderson. The suit alleges Henderson raped the student after he entered her unlocked dorm room on March 12, 2004.

According to a June 8, 2004, article in the State Press, ASU's student newspaper, Henderson was indefinitely suspended from the football team and removed from its roster on April 2, 2004, for a violation of the student code of conduct.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office did not file criminal charges against Henderson, citing the unlikelihood of conviction.

The new lawsuit filed on March 10 alleges that ASU, Koetter and Smith "created and fostered an environment that encouraged inappropriate behavior by football players, including sexual harassment of female students and other women."

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