Into the Fire

Dennis Erickson's a frightening choice to lead a college football program plagued by murder and NCAA violations

"I think the system failed you," Adams wrote in that April 25, 2005, letter. "The signs of your temper, depression, and not being rational were there, and they should have gotten you help."

She noted in the letter that ASU obtained a psychologist for Wade when he was considering quitting football in fall 2004 after sustaining a concussion during a practice. But, Adams wrote, the university didn't do anything when Wade was having problems with girlfriends and "punching walls."

Adams wrote, "I saw it, so I know that our friends, coaches, and your mother saw it, too. Like I said, we all failed you and, in turn, Brandon."

Dirk Koetter, former ASU football coach, knew of Loren Wade’s problems but still fought to get him back on his team.
AP/Wide World
Dirk Koetter, former ASU football coach, knew of Loren Wade’s problems but still fought to get him back on his team.
Former ASU star running back Loren Wade was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison for killing Brandon Falkner in March 2005.
AP/Wide World
Former ASU star running back Loren Wade was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison for killing Brandon Falkner in March 2005.

ASU, however, doesn't see it that way. In a heavily censored report prepared by a university task force formed to investigate the shooting, ASU acknowledged in July 2005 that Koetter made "errors in judgment" in handling Wade. The report, however, concluded that no university policies were violated.

Koetter escaped reprimand, but his future at ASU appeared to be in jeopardy, especially because his teams struggled against top opponents. Love surprised many — and infuriated Falkner's family — when she extended Koetter's contract in December 2005 through the 2009 season. She also gave him a $172,000 raise, boosting his pay to $950,000 a year.

"The complete scope of our program continues to strengthen under his leadership," Love said in December 2005, somehow overlooking the fact that a starting player had committed a murder during Koetter's watch.

Love's pronouncement that ASU's program was improving under Koetter's leadership shocked the Falkner family. Jelani Falkner said Koetter failed to take steps to protect others from Wade's aggressive actions. And, to make matters worse, Koetter had kicked Falkner off the team a few years earlier because he had been arrested for driving on a suspended license.

Jelani Falkner says Koetter displayed inexcusable favoritism by removing Brandon for a relatively minor offense while reinstating Wade in the wake of the NCAA violation and his antisocial behavior.

"It was extremely upsetting when they extended [Koetter's] contract and gave him a raise," Jelani Falkner said. "I didn't think he deserved the position as head coach."

A year later, neither did Love.

ASU fired Koetter last November, the day after the Sun Devils defeated Arizona in Tucson to finish another mediocre regular season. The university is paying dearly for Love's haste to extend Koetter's contract. ASU is paying Koetter (now the offensive coordinator of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars) $2.85 million to fulfill the terms of that contract.

Wade wasn't the only player to run afoul of the law during Koetter's era.

After suspending Wade in 2004, Koetter named Hakim Hill starting running back. Koetter had suspended Hill in 2001 after Hill was charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. Hill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assault causing injury and Koetter reinstated Hill to the team in 2002. Hill led ASU in rushing in 2004 but was kicked off the team again before the 2004 Sun Bowl for getting in a fight with a teammate.

Koetter is a defendant in a lawsuit filed by an ASU student alleging she was sexually assaulted in her dorm room by defensive back Darnel Henderson in March 2004. No criminal charges were filed against Henderson, who was kicked off the team in April 2004. The lawsuit filed in March 2006 alleges that Koetter and ASU "created and fostered an environment that encouraged inappropriate behavior by football players, including sexual harassment of female students and other women."

Does any of this sound familiar to what was said about the behavior of football players at University of Miami in the '90s?

With Koetter gone, Lisa Love had the golden opportunity to hire a squeaky-clean coach to rid ASU football of its outlaw image — and to lead it to the high standards that Crow professes to desire at his "New American University."

Love and Crow picked Erickson.


"Who is the best fit to lead the Sun Devil football program in regards to our standards?" Lisa Love rhetorically asked to open a news conference last December 11 to introduce ASU's new football coach.

"Who fits us, 'us' being a commitment to the scholarship and academic standards and the success of student athletes and Arizona State," she continued. "'Us' means a commitment to following the rules, the Pac-10 rules, the rules of college football, the rules and policy of Arizona State University, and certainly those of the NCAA."

Amazingly, Love concluded that "who" is Dennis Erickson, the man who allowed Miami's football program to descend into the gutter and then bolted to the NFL months before the NCAA slapped the university with harsh sanctions.

Inexplicably, Love concluded that Erickson was the best available college football coach in the nation when it comes to "following the rules."

Moments later, Erickson, in responding to a question about problems at Miami, made the statement mentioned earlier in this story: "There have never been any NCAA infractions that I've been involved in."

Love quickly backed up her new coach, absolving him of any blame for the fiasco in Miami.

Love said she did her homework on Erickson's tenure at Miami and was satisfied that he wasn't responsible for what happened.

"I read the transcripts and findings and consultations with the compliance officials with regards to the Miami affair to get down the crux of it," she said. "Not just what is perceived but to get to the facts, and I found that, indeed, Dennis Erickson was not involved in those issues, and that is what was found to be true."

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24 comments
pmpnjomama
pmpnjomama

Terrible article. Previous posters have already covered why. I just wanted to add my agreement. Does New Times always have to try be controversial?

Tom
Tom

Missouri Devil,

With regards to your "point" 4, Wade and Wade alone is responsible for his own action.

Also, "point" 5, all 3 have happened and the future looks bright.

Scum indeed.

Matt
Matt

What a bunch of crap this is now... Look at the football program now, Erickson is Named Coach of the year, and what a bunch of nonsense this article states.. No sound basis for any of the arguments and when its all said and done, I'd like to see a new article titled " I was wrong about Erickson" The person who wrote this article is the person who see's a murderer in his own Mother.. Always dwelling on the negative and never looking at the positives. Spout out an article like this then he comes in and people love the guy and he does wonders for a football program in such a short period of time, and then reading this article is like a joke.

Dawn
Dawn

John,

Nice to see you back. Well written, thoughtful, insightful, and as always, well-researched. If it were written about my university I might hate it too, because it's written about my State's university it troubles me greatly. ASU fans, look at the evidence. Maybe DE has changed. 1995 has been a few years. Hopefully we've all done some growing and changing in those years, and IF he is in recovery now from alcohol abuse he may be a totally, totally different man and coach. Maybe, we can wait and see for a little while.

Still, nice to see you back, Dougherty!!

Missouri Devil
Missouri Devil

I am a grad of ASU and love the school with all my heart but I am saddened by all the people calling John's story leftist, commie etc. A few things for you right leaning name callers:1) Being "Liberal" is not being Communist. BIG FRIGGIN DIFFERENCE!2) The Arizona Republic is not the bastion of fact that you make it out to be! (I believe Joltin' Joe Arpio's Son-In-Law is an editior...Yead that leads to unbiased journalism)3) DE as you call him is scum! He was scum in Miami, He was Scum in Washington and he will be Scum here. You can shine a turd all you want but it is still a turd.4) Every other Sports program at ASU have great coaches who wouldn't let their athletes act like Coach Koetter let his players act5) It doesn't matter if the guys girlfriend was rich or poor, everyone is to blame for that young man's death

And Finally5) I hope the Devils do win more games, pack the stadium, have no problems etc. But I know that at least one of those won't happen.

Welcome back John, love ya brother!

scott machen
scott machen

Wow. What a story. I never knew there were problems at major division 1 football programs. Get a life.

Withheld for Fear of Retributi
Withheld for Fear of Retributi

ASU. Always a class act.

ASU used to feature in Playboy's Top Ten Party Schools issues in the 70s.That was bad enough but even that was preferable to the kinds of things coming out now - the fabricated "Muslim hate" incidents, the porn movie scandal, the "I can get away with DUI manslaughter if I'm an international student from Kuwait" scandal, the repellent treatment of senior faculty, and the open secret about the appalling levels of cheating - especially among international grad students. I wonder if PBS is aware of the extent to which ASU treats KAET as "its own personal television station." I've never seen so much hype on any other PBS affiliate.

Does ASU serve Phoenix-area students, or is it the choice by default?

Time we woke up and pulled the plug.

Pissed
Pissed

ASU. Always a class act.

tom gavin
tom gavin

Jeeze, listen to the little ASU homers squeal like the little bitches they are! All they care about is whether the ASU football team wins, which is pretty much what John Dougherty said with this story. Only he was referring to the administration. Otherwise why would they hire a scumbag like Dennis Erickson? As long as the Sun Devils win football games, murder, rape, whatever is great. I would like to see the credentials of the guy above who claims to have 15 years' experience as a jouirnalist. At the Weekly Reader? Notice nobody complaining here has the balls to sign his name. Just a pack of pussies, like most ASU fan-roids. What a fucking idiot this so-called journalist is, along with the others who claim this story is fact-challenged. Fuckheads, it's right from the NCAA report and the headlines! Sports Illustrated covers and an NCAA investigation don't lie. Erickson is a loser personally, even if he does win a few more games than Koetter. But even the jury's out on that.

Serious
Serious

Why don't you write an article blaming his rich little girlfriend who was more to blame, she knew his personality more than anyone else and covered for it repeatedly. If she'd have done what she should have, Faulkner would be alive. How would Koetter not think Wade's previous transgretions weren't blown out of proportion when Haley kept sticking up for him. Blame her, blame her parents... they were the enablers.

Drew
Drew

The biased, one-sided "reporting" of this left-wing rag never ceases to amaze me. THe only reason why I came across this article was because the link was posted on www.devilsdigest.com. After reading the whole thing, I was amazed at the amount of space wasted mainly on one subject: The Miami infractions. Erickson, Love, and Crow aren't trying to forget about Erickson's past, rather they are trying to put it behind them to become a better program. I find it interesting that you don't even address that.Brandon Falkner is dead because Loren Wade shot him. THAT"S IT!!! Stop shifting the blame around. If anybody failed anybody, the jury at the trial failed us. Wade should have been convicted of murder 1 and facing the death penalty (oops.........too conservative for you, huh).Fair and balanced reporting do not exist with the New Times (never has). That's why the author of this story has a home here and no self respecting print media outlet (like the Tribune or the Republic) will go near him. This liberal, anti-ASU rag belongs in the craphole down south (yes, I mean Tucson). Better yet, the ASU school of journalism should hold the New Times as an example of "what not to be."

Paul
Paul

As a journalist for more than 15 years, I believe The Phoenix New Times has dropped the ball on this one. Your reporter might as well be a prosecutor. The reporter has presented a case to support an argument, while leaving out huge portions of fact to make the case appear stronger. Here�s the problem. You are supposed to present a fair and balanced report of all the facts and you have failed miserably. So, without getting into all the examples (because I know you don�t need them � they're right in front of you with your research) I will just say this ... when you are in journalism for a while you can see when something is just plain wrong with a report (and this is a great example of that). Let�s be honest. This report has an "all or nothing" approach. I�m sure one of the goals was to generate a lot of talk, controversy, and emotion. Why? To get more people to pick up your paper. Your company is in the business of making money and this article is a means to an end. I believe there are good people working at your paper and I also believe there are people who are misguided. If you truly step back from this report you can clearly see the article is a microcosm of what is wrong with journalism today (a lack of journalist ethics) and I am sure many would agree ... articles like this are perpetuating a slow and methodical death to journalism as we know it.

Paul
Paul

As a journalist for more than 15 years, I believe The Phoenix New Times has dropped the ball on this one. Your reporter might as well be a prosecutor. He/She has presented a case to support an argument, while leaving out huge portions of fact to make the case appear stronger. Here�s the problem. You are supposed to present a fair and balanced report of all the facts and you have failed miserably. So, without getting into all the examples (because I know you don�t need them � they're right in front of you with your research) I will just say this ... when you are in journalism for a while you can see when something is just plain wrong with a report (and this is a great example of that). Let�s be honest. This report has an "all or nothing" approach. I�m sure one of the goals was to generate a lot of talk, controversy, and emotion. Why? To get more people to pick up your paper. Your company is in the business of making money and this article is a means to an end. I believe there are good people working at your paper and I also believe there are people who are misguided. If you truly step back from this report you can clearly see the article is a microcosm of what is wrong with journalism today (a lack of journalistt ethics) and I am sure many would agree ... articles like this are perpetuating a slow and methodical death to journalism as we know it.

That�s just my opinion �

Bababoohii
Bababoohii

Typical of a left-wing rag to blame a high profile target like ASU; a target with deep pockets, for the independent, willful actions of a student athlete like L. Wade. I think the fact that the Fulakner wrongful death suit was dismissed in summary judgement speaks for itself. Wade was a ticking time-bomb; and one could easily argue suspending him prior to his rampage would have triggered this maniac to commit crimes more horrific than the Faulkner tragedy. But hey, you can't sue a psychotic running back with no money; so lets hire a scumbag leach attorney to argue ASU was vicariously liable for homicide....what a joke; but you have to love the attorney's effort...he probably had visions of new vacation home dancing in his head.

With respect those "major" NCAA violations, here's a list of those horiffic violations:

whoa nilly....food, lodging, paying a 20.00 phone bill....whoa...stop the presses New Times..ASU's athletic program is the Rikers Island of the SW...

Sel Date Institution Summary Nov 10, 2005 Arizona State University Impermissible benefits; impermissible financial aid; Jun 25, 1997 Arizona State University EXTRA BENEFITS: impermissible transportation and meal provided by coaches ... Nov 10, 1988 Arizona State University FINANCIAL AID: provided financial aid to ineligible student-athletes. EXT ... Mar 18, 1986 Arizona State University Extra benefits; out-of-season practice; improper recruiting contacts, induc ... Apr 18, 1985 Arizona State University Improper financial aid; lodging and transportation. ... Dec 31, 1980 Arizona State University Improper financial aid; extra benefits; complimentary tickets; improper rec ... Oct 27, 1959 Arizona State University Improper recruiting employment, inducements, lodging and transportation. ... Jan 08, 1954 Arizona State University FINANCIAL AID. IMPERMISSIBLE RECRUITING: transportation; tryouts. OUTSID ... Found 8 Major Infraction Cases

Rob
Rob

Mr. Dougherty, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent article were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Rita Skeeter
Rita Skeeter

This is the worst article I have ever read, and reeks of poor journalism, a clear bias, and terrible writing skills. I suppose the author of this must be practicing for future employment with the Weekly World News.

And, for anyone that has ever read Harry Potter, notice the uncanny resemblence to this writer's style, and the blatant style of muckraker Rita Skeeter. ... the only difference is, Ms. Skeeter's lies and hyperbole actually make sense pertaining to the article.

This piece, it took 6 pages to bash ASU's football program-- jumping from Miami, to Pat Tillman, to some players girlfriend, to.... oh that's right, it's just a hodge podge of meaningless snippets, none of which are related to each other in any way.

This is the last time I ever read a New Times article.

J
J

This is the first and last time I'll come to this site. And with a population of over 55,000 don't you think it's quite possible some bad things might happen? And just STOP with the bashing on Erickson... Pessimistic or jealous people NEVER seem to get over the past and see what has changed. Some ASU alum you are.

Ryan
Ryan

John,

Only read the first page of your article and found two things wrong already:

Season tickets sales actually passsed last year early last month. If check with the Sun Devil ticket office or the article that was written in a real newspaper "The Republic" you would have seen this. Your number for this year did not include student tickets which are usually sold during the month of August. Guess thats why you are wiritng for a free newspaper.

Also season ticket prices went up this year. If you were to have done the correct research you would have found out there are more home games therefore increase in season ticket price.

Good try on writing a Doom and Gloom article to create controversy to attract readers. You should be so proud.

Ryan
Ryan

John,

Only read the first page of your articel and found two things wrong already:

Season tickets sales actually passsed last year early last month. If check with the Sun Devil ticket office or the article that was written in a real news the "The Republic" you would have seen this. Guess thats why you are wiritng for a free newspaper.

Also season ticket prices went up if you were to have done the correct research. Reason being, there are more home games.

Good try on writing a Doom and Gloom article to create controversy to attract readers. You should be so proud.

Matt Feller
Matt Feller

Thank GOD we don't dwell on the past huh? Hmm what is the quickest way to try and make ASU look bad? OH lets go ahead and point our finger's at DE and ASU's past AGAIN. Its not like ASU has a spotless record, and neither does DE. But lets pretend for a second that this HASN'T already been talked about. Lets pretend this is actually "new news". It is obvious you are running out of things to knock ASU for.

Saying that ASU is offending Falkner's image by hiring DE is the most rediculous journalism I have ever seen.

How about you don't rip on DE at ASU unless something actually happens. Thats a novel thought.

Jason
Jason

Nice liberal commi write-up. Surprised you did not blame all of Mike Vick�s problems on DE. Guess what, when this team is winning *with DE* there will be 72k out to support ASU. It�s obvious that ASU is the only school with problems. When you have the 2nd highest enrollment in the country you are bound to have some bad apples. And high profile athletes that don�t receive preferential treatment would be against the norm anywhere in this country. DE wins period. Consider that pretty much all of the athletic department is funded by the football program, it needs to get back to an elite level. How about you move to Tucson and write how great the �Spread Your Legs� offense is working for that spazz throwing fits blaming everyone except himself.

Cingo  wayongo
Cingo wayongo

This is a load of crap. Are you guys out of stories to write?

Bill Preston
Bill Preston

John, Welcome back! You have no idea how much the pubilc and the press have missed you. We appreciate your need to move on and get away, but so glad that you came back to us. I read what I could from you in High Country News, but it will be brilliant having you back in the valley bringing us stories closer to home. We've barely been "Via Con Dios"-ing without you. Give us the inside goop on Sheriff Joe, Mark Goudeau, and the UEP. No one else can compete with your research and writing. You give us something to look forward to on Thursday's. Thanks.

chris long
chris long

I lived there 16 years and ASU has been plagued by scandalssince the 80's...

The reputation of the school is well earned...

Wonder if they have a course on the 'Phoenix Lights' ?

No, the Do have Marianne Moody-Jennings...Ha !

 
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