Into the Fire

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

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.

For example, the NCAA found that between 1990 and 1994, more than $223,000 in excess financial aid was distributed to 141 football players. The money was handed out because the athletic department improperly calculated off-campus room-and-board stipends. In addition, football players got another $212,000 in improper benefits between 1989 and 1991.

That's not all. There was the Pell Grant scandal, in which about 57 football players received roughly $170,000 by filing fraudulent grant applications. An assistant athletic director pleaded guilty to filing the fraudulent applications and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Giulio Sciorio
Dennis Erickson, ASU's new football coach
Tony Blei
Dennis Erickson, ASU's new football coach

"It was widely known among the student-athletes that funds could be obtained through the help of the assistant director for academics in athletics support services," the NCAA report states.

Many of the athletes, the report stated, were aware that they submitted fraudulent applications to obtain the Pell Grants.

Just as Erickson maintained he didn't know about the university's drug policy, the head coach claimed he knew nothing about the Pell Grant scam until after news of a federal investigation appeared in the news media. Erickson was later called to testify before a federal grand jury about the matter.

But once he learned about the scandal, Erickson wasn't interested in punishing players who'd been indicted.

According to former Miami athletic director Dave Maggard, Erickson insisted — over Maggard's objection — that a player who'd been indicted in the scheme be allowed to participate in games.

Erickson hasn't always taken the position that he's never been involved in an NCAA infraction — as he stated in Tempe last December 11.

The day after the NCAA released its report on December 1, 1995, Erickson was quoted in Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel as accepting partial blame for the NCAA sanctions.

"I'll take responsibility for my share of what happened there" concerning players participating in games after testing positive for drugs, he said.

But Erickson insisted that he never hid drug results from anyone and that it was simply a "misunderstanding or the lack of communication, or whatever you want to call it, that went on between the football program and the administration."

Despite the fact that the NCAA had just slapped Miami with a three-year probation, suspended 34 football scholarships, banned the school from a postseason bowl game, and stated that the "head coach" was directly involved in two serious infractions, Erickson declared victory because he wasn't cited by the NCAA personally:

"I feel vindicated."


Alumni wonder how long Dennis Erickson will stay in Tempe and whether it's in his constitution to bring dignity to the football program.

The coach has a history of bolting from teams after short stints. He stayed at Wyoming one year before jumping to Washington State, where he lasted two years. He left Pullman to take the Miami job and stayed six seasons. By the time he left Miami, he had compiled an impressive 117-48-1 record through the 1994 season.

His record has been underwhelming since he left Miami.

Except for leading Oregon State to an 11-1 season in 2000 and a Fiesta Bowl win against Notre Dame, Erickson has coached more losers than winners. His record the past 11 seasons is 75-81, including two dismal years coaching the San Francisco 49ers before he was fired after the 2004 season.

After sitting out the 2005 season, Erickson returned to the University of Idaho, where he'd started his head coaching career in 1981 at age 34. Erickson became Idaho's winningest coach in just four seasons in the early '80s. Naturally, he received a hero's welcome upon returning to Moscow in 2006. He signed a five-year contract and announced his intention to rebuild the struggling Vandals program and finish his coaching career in Idaho.

Erickson quit after 10 months to take the job at ASU.

Left behind were disillusioned and angry university officials and fans.

"Had we known that we were going to end up in this situation, we would never have gone down that road," Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear said. "We made a commitment, and we thought we had a commitment from the other end, but I wish Dennis Erickson the best."

Given that ASU is Erickson's third Pac-10 school, he was asked about his views on commitment and loyalty during the introductory news conference. Erickson suggested that opportunity holds sway.

"Commitment and loyalty are different things depending [on] where you are at and what you want to do with your life," he said "The bottom line for me, leaving Idaho to get here, was the opportunity to be the coach here."

ASU booster Don Tapia strongly supports Erickson's hire and predicts the Sun Devils will quickly return to the national stage.

"He's got a great freshman class that, in a couple of years, will lead us to one of the major bowl games," Tapia predicts.

Erickson's problems at Miami don't concern Tapia: "Everybody who's been successful in life has some baggage out there."

Besides, Tapia says, he's confident that Love has implemented strict reforms in the athletic department to reduce the likelihood of future NCAA violations. Since she and the other ASU officials typically refuse to answer questions, how can anyone be sure what, if anything, she's done to make sure Erickson doesn't follow in Koetter's footsteps — or his own — regarding discipline?

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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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