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

Arizona State University's men's basketball coach Rob Evans revived a program disgraced by a notorious point-shaving scandal and reached postseason play four out of his eight seasons.

While winning was important, Evans' overarching goal was to teach his players how to succeed in life.

He kept close watch on his student-athletes, demanding they go to class and conduct themselves off the court with honor. At least 14 players earned degrees since 1999, and none found himself in trouble with the law.

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
Building character was first on his agenda: Fired ASU basketball coach Rob Evans
courtesy of Arizona State University
Building character was first on his agenda: Fired ASU basketball coach Rob Evans
Loren Wade reputedly threatened to kill two other students before he killed former football player Brandon Falkner.
courtesy of Maricopa County SheriffÕs Office
Loren Wade reputedly threatened to kill two other students before he killed former football player Brandon Falkner.
Murder victim Brandon Falkner
courtesy of Student Media
Murder victim Brandon Falkner

For Evans' dedication to building character through competition, he was fired.

Evans was dismissed on March 10 with a year left on his $600,000 annual contract after posting a 119-120 record. He will be paid by ASU for doing nothing next season.

Football coach Dirk Koetter hasn't done much better on the field, posting a 33-28 record in five years and winning two of three second-tier bowl appearances.

Koetter's premier goal is to win a national championship -- no matter what. There's a $1 million bonus coming his way if he does.

Unlike Evans, Koetter has had extremely serious problems with his players off the field. Two players have faced sexual-assault allegations and two other players were kicked off the team for secretly filming a coed disrobing. Another player was dismissed after pulling a knife, and another for firing a gun.

But what began to happen in the winter of 2004 and spring of 2005 with one of the Sun Devils' star players easily eclipses the ongoing Duke lacrosse team gang-rape scandal, where, by the way, the coach immediately resigned.

During that period, 21-year-old running back Loren Wade exhibited increasingly erratic and threatening behavior toward female athletes, including his girlfriend. When faced with the option of reporting Wade's serious misconduct to ASU campus police and to student affairs officials, Koetter did neither.

Had he reported the behavior, his star player surely would have been kicked out of school.

Koetter played it safe -- for his football team and for his career. The coach reinstated Wade, who was already in trouble for a different problem, to the team for spring 2005 practices. The earlier trouble involved Wade accepting cash payments from an ASU employee, which had gotten him suspended.

Incredibly, Koetter reinstated Wade after learning that he had threatened to kill a female gymnast, after receiving a report from the women's soccer coach that players were terrified because Wade had a gun, and after knowing Wade's girlfriend had called police fearing Wade was going to destroy her apartment after he had threatened her life.

No counseling was ordered for Wade.

No punishment was handed out.

That's because Wade was an untouchable star athlete.

Wade had set the ASU freshman rushing record in 2003 and was expected to be the key to ASU's offense in the 2005 season. In order to win and have a shot at the Pacific-10 Conference title, Koetter needed Wade at running back, no matter what.

Koetter chose to ignore behavior that would have led to immediate dismissal from the team, if not the university, for a player of lesser ability.

This proved to be a dreadful mistake in judgment.

Soon after Wade began practicing with the team, disaster struck.

On March 26, 2005, he shot and killed 25-year-old Brandon Falkner, a former ASU football player who had been talking to Wade's estranged girlfriend in the parking lot of a Scottsdale nightclub.

How did the ASU athletic department react to the tragedy of one ASU athlete killing a former Sun Devil athlete?

It awarded Koetter a hefty raise to $950,000 a year and extended his contract.

Last December, six months into her tenure as ASU vice president of athletics, Lisa Love bestowed upon Koetter -- whose record includes one win and 10 losses against Top 10 teams and whose ex-star running back is facing a murder rap -- an 18 percent raise and a contract extension until January 2010.

Three months later, Love fired Evans, a coach who never had a player in trouble with the law and had rebuilt a program ruined by a gambling scandal that left ASU basketball a national pariah.

Love, who has never led a large college athletic department, let alone one with a $41 million budget like ASU's, has set Sun Devil athletics on a troubling course.

Apparently overlooking the tragic shooting, among other problems, Love told the media that she extended Koetter's contract because he was moving the football team in a positive direction -- and doing so with integrity.

"The complete scope of our program continues to strengthen under his leadership," Love said during the December press conference announcing Koetter's $172,000 annual pay raise.

If Love believes a raise is justified for Koetter, whose overall performance includes keeping a very troubled player on the team who later killed another student, then there is no legitimate reason for Rob Evans' firing with one year left on his contract.

ASU booster Marty Langhough -- who has given $300,000 to the basketball program -- is furious with Love's decision to fire Evans. Langhough said Love failed to use the same standards when evaluating Evans that she used when deciding to give Koetter the huge raise.

"If you take the words Love said about integrity and moving in the right direction and apply them to the football coach and give him an extension, then the same standards should be applied to the basketball coach, and he should have been given an extension.

"The [win-loss] records of the two programs," Langhough says, "are not that different."


Rob Evans took over Arizona State University's mortally wounded basketball program in April 1998.

Evans inherited the afterbirth of a point-shaving scandal that earned the Sun Devils an eternal bust in the Sports Betting Hall of Shame.

Illegal betting wasn't the only problem on a messy plate. ASU basketball players had been arrested on sexual assault, theft, disorderly conduct and unlawful use of phone credit cards charges while their coach was busy mastering the Las Vegas blackjack tables.

No coach in the history of the Tempe-based university has taken over a program saddled with such a shameful image. ASU basketball was the object of ridicule and scorn from fans, players and the parents of blue-chip high school prospects across the nation.

The betting debacle was the subject of documentaries.

Shoddy oversight by the ASU athletic department allowed a point-shaving scheme to eventually land two college basketball players behind bars.

What could be worse for a sports-centric university?

Well, unfortunately, a more horrible event would rock the ASU athletic department, but it wouldn't be under Evans' watch.

Evans was eager for the challenge of rebuilding ASU's basketball program.

He already had engineered the University of Mississippi's rise to power, turning the perennial loser into a two-time Southeast Conference champion. He led Mississippi to its first 20-win season in 59 years, accomplishing the feat twice.

Evans took the team to its second and third NCAA tournaments ever.

He built the Ole Miss program by recruiting skilled players with solid character. It was a slow process, but one that led to success and to a job offer from Louisiana State University -- which Evans turned down.

Upon his arrival in Tempe, Evans abandoned the bottom-feeding recruiting practices of his predecessor Bill Frieder, whose coaching regime had put about half a dozen thugs into maroon-and-gold uniforms.

Evans pushed aside a cadre of slimy Sun Angel Foundation boosters who had foisted cash on players, paid for their apartments and provided them cars. Some of these boosters would later lead the charge to have him fired.

Evans focused on recruiting youths who planned to actually graduate from college while conducting themselves admirably on and off the court.

Evans accomplished a remarkable turnaround with virtually no support from the university. ASU failed miserably to market the program while forcing his team to conduct many practices at nearby high schools.

ASU's lack of support for the basketball program is best reflected in its paltry advertising budget. In 1992, ASU spent $32,400 on publicity for the men's basketball program. The spending plummeted to $24,000 in 2004.

Advertising for football, meanwhile, jumped from $93,000 in 1992 to $395,000 in 2004.

The lack of promotion made it difficult to attract many fans to the sterile, 14,198-seat Wells Fargo Arena. That, combined with the fact that the great majority of ASU's 50,000 students live off campus, exacerbated the monumental challenge of overcoming the lingering odor of the betting scandal.

Who wants to root for a university basketball team that is best known for shaving points?

After a brief honeymoon, the media soon turned on Evans, attacking him in part for failing to attract fans. The criticism was unjustified. The lack of fan support at Sun Devil basketball games has been a problem since ASU moved into the bland arena in 1974.

The reality is that Evans had the highest average attendance of any ASU coach. It averaged 7,898 fans per game during Evans' eight years. This was better than Frieder's 7,490 fans over eight years. ASU's legendary coach Ned Wulk attracted an average of 7,462 fans per game during the eight years his teams played in the arena.

Evans' basketball teams were also moneymakers for the ASU athletic department. The squad generated $4.3 million for the department in the 2004-2005 season, and after expenses, left a $1.5 million surplus that was used to help defray the cost of other sports.

The basketball team made money despite the fact that the athletic department did virtually nothing to encourage students, staff, faculty and community members to attend home games. The tickets are overpriced, the food is lousy and there are no beer sales. The halftime shows are dreadful, and the pep band needs a makeover.

Playing before sparse crowds, Evans nevertheless took his teams to the NCAA Tournament once, reaching the second round, and to three appearances in the also-ran National Invitation Tournament. In two seasons his squads went to the NIT, they were perhaps a win or two away from going to the NCAA tourney.

More important, none of his players was ever arrested for anything.

Evans was sending out the signal to the homes of high school stars across the country that ASU's outlaw days were over as long as he was running the program.

Higher-caliber high school recruits started considering ASU as a possibility. Four years after arriving, Evans persuaded Ike Diogu, one of the most sought-after high school players in the nation, that he should come to ASU.

Diogu went on to become one of the greatest ASU players in history. He jumped to the pros after his junior year, leaving Evans with a young, untested team that stumbled this past season to an 11-17 record. It included a humiliating loss to unknown Utah Valley State.

While Evans' accomplishments might not turn heads at perennial national powers such as UCLA or Arizona, the 59-year-old coach from Las Cruces, New Mexico, pulled off an incredible feat by reviving a Sun Devil program that was branded as criminal and corrupt.

"Coach Evans entered a basketball program that was previously filled with scandal and athletes who did not represent the university in a positive manner," ASU alum Harry Burton wrote in a March 9 e-mail to Lisa Love encouraging her to hang on to Evans. "Coach Evans was able to build the program, I believe, into a respectable one. . . . He is a dynamic leader and a very good coach."

(This and other e-mails from alums were obtained by New Times under the Arizona Public Records law. The university is withholding all e-mails involving Loren Wade.)

Instead of keeping Evans, Love kowtowed to the wishes of powerful boosters, one of whom obtained a FIREROB vanity license plate.

The ironic thing is, Evans could have avoided such an ignoble ending at Arizona State if he wasn't such a loyal guy.

In 2002, the University of New Mexico made a sweet overture for Evans to return to his home state. The Lobos dangled more money, prestige and power. In New Mexico, college athletics is all there is, and Evans would have had the opportunity to floor teams before a packed house of fanatic fans in an arena nicknamed The Pit.

Evans would have been treated as royalty -- the virtual Lute Olson of Albuquerque.

But Evans politely turned down the $4.9 million, seven-year offer. At the time, Evans was making $400,000 a year. But he wasn't about to bolt on his players. And, he had not yet accomplished his goal of turning the Sun Devil basketball program into a national powerhouse built on the shoulders of solid citizens.

When given the chance to return the tip of the hat, ASU athletic director Love and president Michael Crow displayed an appalling lack of appreciation and respect for Evans. The coach who not only remained loyal, but who always did the right thing in handling his players -- even if it cost the team victories -- was out.

Instead of coaching a squad with many promising recruits that has a real chance of winning 20 games and beating archrival Arizona next season, Evans faces the possibility of not coaching for the first time in 38 years.

Ever loyal, Evans politely declined to comment when he was told that this column would question why he was fired and why Koetter, despite his team's off-field problems, is still around and financially prospering. Koetter and Love stonewalled New Times, refusing repeated requests to be interviewed about the apparent inequities in the athletic department.

In statements made to the media after his dismissal, Evans contended he accomplished what he set out to do: Clean up a troubled program, get to postseason play and prepare the team to jump to the next level of competition.

"We felt like we had it on track to make some noise with the kids coming in for next year," Evans said in a March interview with Channel 12. "The program now has a chance to move forward."

Former ASU basketball player Brandon Goldman in a March 7 letter urged Love to keep Evans as coach. Goldman was a non-scholarship player but an inspiration to the team and fans, and was named team captain his senior year in 2004.

"Coach Evans brought the respect and the integrity to the ASU program that was never seen before," Goldman wrote. "From a coaching, recruiting, scholastic, and integrity standpoint there is no better man for this job. Everyone at ASU owes Coach Evans and his staff the time and the patience to see this through."


Dirk Koetter left his job as head coach at Boise State University and took over as ASU football coach in December 2000.

It was his dream job.

Koetter says on his personal Web site that he had coveted the ASU coaching job for a decade before landing the position.

"In the end, make no mistake, this is where I want to be, because Arizona State has the ability to win a national championship," Koetter says.

Koetter inherited a program with a long tradition of championship football that included two Pac-10 titles and two trips to the Rose Bowl.

But Sun Devil football was in decline from the heyday of the 1996 team that ran the table in the regular season, shutting out defending national champion Nebraska along the way. The Sun Devils came within a minute of winning the national title in the 1997 Rose Bowl before losing to Ohio State, 20-17, in one of the greatest Rose Bowls ever played.

After five seasons at the helm, the 47-year-old Koetter has not yet come close to establishing himself among the elite of ASU's coaches who include the late Dan Devine and the legendary Frank Kush, both of whom coached undefeated teams.

Nor has he reached the level below that occupied by John Cooper and Bruce Snyder, who won Pac-10 titles in 1986 and 1996, respectively. Cooper's team won the 1987 Rose Bowl against Michigan, while Snyder's team lost the 1997 Rose Bowl to an Ohio State team coached ironically by Cooper.

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.

On the night of March 25, Wade was carrying a handgun and socializing with some friends when he discharged the pistol in a Tempe parking lot. The bullet nearly hit the foot of a fellow football player.

On that evening, Wade had obsessively telephoned van Blommestein, calling her about 40 times, court records state. Wade arrived at the Coyote Bay Night Club in Scottsdale shortly after 2 a.m. on March 26. Wade had been drinking and was very upset, according to police and court records.

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputies were patrolling the parking lot and observed Wade talking in an agitated manner on his cell phone. The cops were so concerned about his behavior that they began to follow Wade, who was about 100 yards away.

One officer unholstered her Taser as they moved toward Wade as he walked in the direction of a car where van Blommestein was standing outside next to the driver's window. Wade confronted the driver, Brandon Falkner, and words were exchanged.

Within seconds, Wade pulled out the gun and struck Falkner on the side of head, witnesses told police. Then, the gun in Wade's hand discharged and killed Falkner.

Wade was immediately arrested.

According to court records, one MCSO officer stated, "Wade had made a spontaneous statement to his girlfriend on scene immediately after the shooting, something to the effect of, 'I did this because of you and I fucked up.'"

He was charged with first-degree murder and is being held on a $1 million bond in the Maricopa County Jail.

His trial is scheduled to begin June 19, and his attorney, Ulises A. Ferragut, is expected to argue that the shooting was accidental.

Ferragut has listed Koetter as a probable witness in court filings.

Four days after the killing, Koetter was interviewed by a Scottsdale police detective who asked the football coach a crucial question.

"Has Loren ever had to take any type of anger management as a result of any of your discipline?"

"No, no," the coach said.

While Koetter was cutting Wade plenty of slack to keep him on the team, the coach had no such patience for the man who was killed by his star player.

Brandon Falkner wasn't a starting player at ASU. Koetter kicked him off the team in June 2002 after Falkner failed to pay some traffic tickets and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Falkner was re-enrolled at ASU when he was killed.

In response to the shooting, ASU president Crow convened a special committee to investigate the events leading up to the tragedy. The committee released a heavily censored report last July that attempts to distance the university from any liability for Wade's actions.

In a press release accompanying the report, the university states that "no ASU faculty or staff member had reasonable cause to suspect that Loren Wade might be capable of shooting another person."

But how can ASU make such a sweeping statement after evidence that has been publicly released clearly shows that Loren Wade was literally a time bomb waiting to explode?

Wade had threatened to kill a gymnast.

Wade had twice threatened to destroy his girlfriend's apartment and had threatened her life.

A woman was so terrified of Wade that she called the Scottsdale police and said he had a gun, which is a violation of athletic department rules.

Female soccer players were so scared of him that they told their coach that Wade was carrying a gun.

In an altercation, Wade had broken the wrist of the female ASU employee who had provided him the improper benefits, according to police reports.

What else did the athletic department and Koetter need to know before taking action that might have saved Falkner's life?

Instead of demanding that Wade receive counseling and reporting his threatening behavior to campus authorities, Koetter elected to allow his star player -- his possible ticket to a million-dollar bonus -- to rejoin the team.

The university's whitewash investigation also found no evidence that any ASU or Arizona Board of Regents policies or procedures had been violated. That's because the written policies are so vague that it's next to impossible for anyone to violate them.

The committee amazingly did find that former athletic director Gene Smith and Koetter made "errors in judgment" with respect to the handling of allegations of improper conduct by Wade.

But the university cast those errors in a positive light.

"We did not find that coaches and staff in the university's athletics department failed to try and help Loren Wade or other student-athletes," said ASU Law Professor Myles Lynk, who chaired the committee.

"Rather, we found that they tried to do too much, taking it upon themselves to provide services that can be better provided by other university components."

In other words, the university's official stance is that Koetter and other athletic department officials did "too much" to try to keep Wade from exploding. This would be laughable if an innocent, unarmed student hadn't been gunned down by one of the football team's elite players.

Thankfully, the university's self-serving excuse for an investigation is not the end of the matter.

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.

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."

As the 2006 ASU football season approaches, Koetter won't be focused solely on getting his team ready for the fall campaign. He will be preparing to testify in the murder trial of his former star running back, in a wrongful-death suit and in a rape case.

To say this isn't the best way for a big-time college football coach to spend his summer is a tragic understatement.


In less than a year as ASU vice president of athletics, Lisa Love has already made three crucial decisions that will help define her legacy.

She extended Dirk Koetter's contract in the aftermath of the fatal shooting by Loren Wade.

She fired Rob Evans with one year remaining on his contract.

And she hired a new men's basketball coach.

It was quite a year for a woman with so little experience running a big-time athletic department.

Love served as senior associate athletic director at USC for three years before being named to the ASU job last July 1. At Southern California, she supervised eight sports including women's basketball, volleyball, tennis, and men's and women's swimming and diving.

The combined budgets of these eight sports probably didn't top $2 million. Love now oversees the $41 million program at the nation's largest university.

So far, Love has shown she is anything but thrifty.

In December, she extended an overnight trip to New York City to a five-night stay at the $620-a-night Doubletree Metropolitan Hotel.

She went to New York for a legitimate reason, to attend the December 5 ceremony where former ASU defensive great Al Harris was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

But why she stayed four more nights is questionable. Love stayed at the pricey Doubletree to, get this, ring the bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange.

Who knows what this has to do with ASU athletics?

Love made sure she traveled in style. The ASU athletic department paid her $249 limo bill to ferry her from the hotel to the stock exchange and on to the airport.

This was just a prelude to even more questionable expenses -- and these are big ones.

When Love decided to fire Evans, the university was forced to pay the salaries of two coaching staffs through the end of June after hiring Herb Sendek from North Carolina State for about $1 million a year. The extra cost of carrying two coaches and their staffs for three months is at least $500,000.

And, of course, ASU is obligated to pay Evans another $600,000 next year to fulfill the terms of his contract.

Given her willingness to blithely toss money around, it's not surprising that Love called in expensive consultants to help find the new basketball coach.

Instead of conducting the search for the new men's basketball coach herself, or forming a university-based search committee, Love hired Baker Parker & Associates, a pricey Atlanta-based headhunting firm, to do the work.

ASU paid $25,515 to Baker Parker to help conduct the search for the basketball coach that most knowledgeable college basketball fans could have done at home with their computer and a cell phone. Let's face it, there just aren't that many available basketball coaches out there with the résumé to coach a Pac-10 team.

Love had a good reason to shell out state money to Baker Parker. A year earlier, the firm had played a crucial role in getting her the $280,000-a-year job in Tempe.

ASU records, also obtained under the state public records law, show that the university paid Baker Parker $87,835 in 2005 to conduct the athletic director search that led to Love's ASU job.

Hiring the firm to conduct a search for ASU's new basketball coach could be viewed as a convenient way for Love to say thanks to Baker Parker.

And, it could also be seen as an inducement to Baker Parker to keep Love's name at the top of the list the next time an AD job opens up elsewhere in the country. Major college athletics is a fickle business. You never can tell.

The consulting firm's Dan Parker declined to discuss what candidates were considered for the ASU head basketball coach's job, other than to say that "Herb [Sendek] was on our early list."

Parker acknowledged that the firm was also representing the University of Indiana in its search for a new basketball coach at the same time it was working with Arizona State.

Parker says this was not a conflict of interest because "Indiana and ASU were never looking at the same guy at the same time."

Indiana hired Kelvin Sampson, who had resigned under the cloud of an NCAA investigation from the University of Oklahoma.

Sources close to the search tell New Times that ASU was also considering Sampson.

In the end, Arizona State landed Sendek, who appears to be a decent guy who won't sully Evans' legacy of recruiting classy players.

As for Love, she appears to be in over her head.

She repeatedly misspelled Sendek's name in e-mails for days after she announced his hiring. ASU's vice president of athletics insisted on spelling it "Sendeck" in e-mails to supporters praising him as her selection.

A typo can be forgiven, but her decision to fire Evans and keep Koetter has a lot of alums wondering if the university couldn't have spent that $87,835 to find a new ASU athletic director more wisely.

Because whacking a coach with a mediocre on-court record and a stellar off-court record and rewarding a coach with a mediocre on-field record and a scary off-field record doesn't make sense. The bottom line is, ASU fired the wrong guy.

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