Into the Fire

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

"So, I went right to the source and right to the key people who were responsible for those areas and departments. The more I heard, the more confident I was in what I believed to be true and what other athletics directors have shared with me in who he is."

Erickson and Love's statements exonerating the new coach from any responsibility for the NCAA sanctions at Miami are directly contradicted not only by numerous news media reports, but also by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions report issued December 1, 1995, concerning the University of Miami.

Attempts to interview Erickson, Love, and Crow to discuss the NCAA findings and the contradictory statements made during the December 11 news conference were unsuccessful. Typical of the Crow administration whenever New Times requests information on controversial issues at the university, all three refused to be interviewed for this story.

Erickson talks football with the Phoenix sports media. He refused an interview with New Times.
Tony Blei
Erickson talks football with the Phoenix sports media. He refused an interview with New Times.
Former ASU football player Brandon Falkner was kicked off the team for a minor infraction. He then was murdered by ASU football player Loren Wade.
courtesy of Jalani Falkner
Former ASU football player Brandon Falkner was kicked off the team for a minor infraction. He then was murdered by ASU football player Loren Wade.

ASU also has failed to comply with an August 3 written request filed under the Arizona Public Records Law to produce all records reviewed by Love that led her to conclude that Erickson wasn't involved with NCAA rules violations at Miami.

Virgil Renzulli, ASU vice president for public affairs, requested that New Times submit written questions concerning Erickson's hiring. New Times submitted detailed questions to Love, Erickson, and Crow. None of them responded.

Renzulli also refused to answer most of the questions. Concerning ASU's review of Erickson's background, Renzulli stated:

"We thoroughly checked his background, which is standard procedure in hiring college coaches, and concluded that Dennis Erickson is not only one of the best college football coaches in America but also a man who will work well in concert with the ASU infrastructure supporting academic success and the off-the-field behavior of our student-athletes."

ASU officials point to the fact that Erickson was never personally cited by the NCAA for violating rules at the University of Miami to support their hiring decision.

"There was no finding that the former head football coach [Erickson] committed a major violation [at Miami]," says James Elworth, an NCAA enforcement official.

But that doesn't mean that Erickson was not directly involved in major infractions leveled against the Miami football program.

It's unknown whether ASU officials read the 1995 Committee on Infractions report on the University of Miami before hiring Erickson, although Renzulli states in his e-mail that ASU "checked" NCAA reports. If ASU officials actually read the NCAA report, it's difficult to understand how they concluded that Erickson walked away from Miami with his hands clean.

The infractions report states that actions taken by the "head football coach" directly contributed to the University of Miami being severely penalized for violating NCAA rules.

"That report speaks for itself," Elworth says.

The NCAA report found a wide range of rules violations at Miami, including two directly related to the "head football coach," Dennis Erickson.

The NCAA determined that the pay-for-play pool had started in 1986 and continued through at least the first four years of Erickson's six-year tenure, which began with the 1989 season.

"During the 1986 through 1992 football seasons, numerous football student-athletes received cash awards for their performances in regular-season and postseason football games," the NCAA report states.

According to the NCAA, Erickson knew about the improper payments to players but failed to stop them.

"The head football coach and the associate director of athletics for compliance and internal operations were aware of the existence of the pool. Although the head coach requested that the student-athletes discontinue the pool, neither individual took any significant steps to stop the pool or to ensure that the activity ceased."

The NCAA also found that Erickson violated the university's drug policy by allowing players to continue to compete after testing positive for banned substances in the 1993 and 1994 seasons.

During the 1993 season, the NCAA said players, assistant football coaches, athletic department officials and the assistant trainer all believed that the university's drug policy was in effect. The policy was published in the student-athlete handbook and had been reviewed with players.

Yet, somehow, Erickson didn't think the drug policy was in effect.

"As a result," the NCAA report states, "if a student-athlete tested positive, the head athletics trainer notified the head football coach, who did not forward the information to any other athletics department staff."

The NCAA attributed Erickson's failure to notify the athletic department about positive drug tests to a "lack of communication and misunderstandings concerning the policy."

Erickson's "misunderstanding" allowed him to play All-American Warren Sapp in the 1994 Fiesta Bowl, even though Sapp had tested positive for the third time earlier in the season and could have been suspended for one year. While the NCAA report doesn't identify what drug was found, newspaper accounts reported it was pot.

Erickson didn't suspend Sapp for the following season and, when Sapp tested positive for a fourth time in fall 1994, Erickson once again didn't disclose the results to the athletic department. Instead, Erickson started his talented defensive player in the 1995 Orange Bowl with the national championship on the line. Top-ranked Nebraska defeated third-ranked Miami 24-17.

The NCAA also found other substantial violations involving the football program but didn't link them directly to Erickson. These violations, however, raised serious questions about Erickson's ability and willingness to closely oversee a major college football program.

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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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