Koetter Carve-Up

This pigskin-lovin' pelican knows it's all about winnin' on the gridiron. But even this point-spread-obsessed avian draws the line at — gulp — murder.

Not so Arizona State University Athletic Director Lisa Love, who finally handed ASU head coach Dirk Koetter his trotting papers. This after the Sun Devils' 28-14 victory over blood rival Arizona. Why did Loveless Lisa at last act? Could it be her conscience was tormenting her 'cause Coach K and, by extension, herself and ASU Prez Michael Crow had coddled murderer/running back Loren Wade, overlooking his propensity for violence right up until that fateful evening in March 2005 when Wade shot down former Devils football player Brandon Falkner in the parking lot of Scottsdale's Papago Plaza?

Nah, Love didn't give a peacock's patootie that Koetter had blood on his hands. Remember, it was Love who, in the wake of the scandal, extended Koetter's contract and boosted his pay to $950K. This despite Koetter's incompetence leading up to the slaying: Coach K ignored Wade's threats to kill a female gymnast, reports that Wade owned a gun and the phone calls of Wade's girlfriend to the cops that she feared for her life.

Indeed, according to New Times' scathing cover story "Fire HIM!" (John Dougherty, May 4, 2006), Koetter did not discipline star athlete Wade, nor did Wade's increasingly O.J. Simpson-like behavior prompt Koetter to tell ASU campus police, or report Wade to student affairs. Koetter could've forced Wade to get counseling, suspending him in the process. In short, Koetter could've saved two lives — those of Falkner and Wade, who's currently in stir waiting for his murder trial to start sometime next year. But Koetter cared more about Wade's stellar rushing record and how that might help propel the Sun Devils to Pac-10 prominence.

Besides Wade, two players faced sexual-assault allegations, and others were removed from the team for filming a coed undressing. One was booted off for firing a gun, another for pulling a knife.

Jesus H. Christ on a crutch, sounds like Koetter had his own remake of the 1974 prison-football classic The Longest Yard goin'. Even before Adam Sandler got involved!

We all know Michael Crow and the Loveless One desire a victorious team to pull in the dough from boosters, TV and ticket sales. Ultimately, what got Koetter sacked was his middling 40-33 record. But because of Love's stupidity in upping Koetter's post-scandal pay and extending his contract, Crow & Co. will have to shell out even more to cut Koetter loose. We're talking about $2.85 million for the remaining three years of Koetter's contract.

Makes The Bird wonder: How many murders, scandals and million-dollar payouts would Crow and Love endure for a Pac-10 title?

Tillman R.I.P.-Off

The hapless Arizona Cardinals may just be the unluckiest flock of wing-bearers in the world — and not just because of their 2-9 record.

First the Cardinals' owners shake talons on a deal calling the football franchise's new Glendale home University of Phoenix Stadium (you know, You Pee Stadium), then they erect a statue in honor of war hero and ex-Cardinals safety Pat Tillman that makes the deceased d-back look like he's being mowed down by his own troops!

The irony is the U.S. Army Ranger was indeed killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, though Army brass lied their asses off about it at first, awarding Tillman posthumous medals and promotions, turning him into a poster boy for the Iraq war.

(Tillman had been redeployed to Afghanistan after his participation in the invasion of Iraq, a conflict he was critical of and called "fucking illegal.")

Still, Tillman's a hero in this heron's eyes, mainly because he gave up his National Football League career to risk his life in battle following 9/11, regardless of the circumstances of his death.

So why couldn't the Cards come up with a classier, more respectful representation of Tillman, one that doesn't look like he's being murdered for the second time?

The eight-foot-tall, 500-pound bronze statue was based on a famous Tillman photograph. But the resulting statue looks sadly grotesque. Tillman's face and mouth are contorted like he's writhing in pain after being gunned down, and his left leg is raised awkwardly in mid-gallop.

This dodo scratched around and learned the statue was a collaborative effort between Phoenix artist Gary Tillery and Illinois sculptor Omri Amrany.

According to Tillery, the response has been positive since the sculpture was unveiled November 12 during Veterans Day weekend.

"Everyone seemed to think it was impressive and that we captured Pat's personality and determination," Tillery told this avian.

Could it be The Bird needs granny glasses? Sure, this jaundiced starling likes other parts of the "Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza," like the low, circular pond constructed of black concrete and stainless steel that resembles a ginormous birdbath.  

But the statue itself is downright weird. Something a bit more mournful might've been in order.

Both Pat's widow, Marie Tillman, and Cards vice president Michael Bidwill okayed the design. All the same, the sculpture seems as flawed as the November 12 halftime ceremony inducting Tillman into the Cards' "Ring of Honor," which included a video tribute. True to form, the Cards botched the video by not running the voices on the sound system, pissing off many in attendance.

Afterward, the team issued an apology: "The bottom line is that we dropped the ball. Our intent was to provide a very special tribute to Pat and in the end we did not do that."

As some sort of back-assward penance, the Cards replayed the video tribute — get this — some two hours before their November 19 game against the Detroit Lions. Sheesh, why even bother?

Dowling Goes Down

When Maricopa County Schools Superintendent Sandra Dowling was indicted last week, the shocker wasn't that she'd been busted. Sheriff Joe Arpaio's investigation had been common knowledge since The Bird revealed last January that his deputies came after Dowling with a subpoena — and that the scurrilous supe responded by hiding under a pile of coats. ("Sharon Stonewaller," January 19, 2006.) Talk about a cover-up!

Dowling's indicted on a slew of charges including fraud, theft and misuse of public money — 25 felonies in all. But what's amazing is that eight of those charges are related to Dowling's efforts to obtain something that this tweeter thought no one would now want: a job in the Bush administration.

Seriously. Dowling was shelling out your tax dollars in hopes of joining the ranks of erstwhile Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Her lobbyist cost $108K of district funds, according to the indictment. Not exactly chicken feed. Still, dummkopf Dowling failed to snag herself a position in the failed admin. That's our Sandy! As the indictment shows, the longtime schools supe managed to screw up some pretty easy stuff.

For example: The county has a real estate department that could've sold school district land for free, says Attorney General Terry Goddard. But when the district needed to sell vacant land in Glendale, Dowling hired a co-worker at Dan Schwartz Realty, where she's also employed as a real estate agent. The co-worker charged a 10 percent commission. The result? Three felony charges against Dowling.

Or take the supe's loser son, Dennis Dowling. He was also indicted, along with two other school district employees, for rigging landscaping bids: Dennis was shown the bid of another landscaping company before submitting his price. He still managed not to be the lowest bidder — and, yep, he still got the job. He's earned $55,500 for doing landscaping for the district, the indictment says, even though in at least one case, the work he did was "nonexistent."

Goddard says his office joined the investigation soon after Sheriff Alzheimer's got it started. He believes the charges are serious — although he notes that there are few ways to remove Dowling from office short of a conviction, her resignation or a recall effort.

One option? Petitioning state education superintendent Tom Horne to put the district into receivership, just like he did for the school district run by polygamists in Colorado City. Goddard claims he's lookin' into that.

"We consider this to be a serious misuse of a public office," Goddard explained to The Bird. "The conflicts of interest is what we were focused on — using the power of the superintendent's office to inappropriately move money and contracts to benefit the superintendent personally, not the kids at Pappas School."

New Times has a long history of chronicling Dowling's missteps — and the way those missteps make it harder for the homeless kids served at Dowling's landmark school to learn. ("Board Games," August 28, 1997, and "Flunk'd," June 29, 2006.)

But, as The Bird learned last week, Sheriff Alzheimer's can't remember that far back. His henchman, Lieutenant Paul "Chag-off" Chagolla, kicked this carping cockatoo out of the lawman's press conference announcing the Dowling indictments. The reason? Chagolla noted that this newspaper's in litigation with Arpaio — and that the sheriff's office is a "secure facility."

Yeah, secure from tough questions.

Like, uh, why doesn't Joe investigate malfeasance in his own department? In the process, maybe he'd like to release the public records that New Times has been "in litigation" for years to obtain? Obviously, the public's interests are only worthwhile when they involve another taxpayer-funded entity.

What's annoying about this is that AG Goddard has joined Arpaio in this investigation, when he's passed up opportunities over the years to investigate the sheriff's shenanigans, including the deaths of prisoners in Arpaio's gulags that resulted in taxpayers paying millions of dollars in damages to victims' families.  

Being AG means you've got power, Terry. Arguably, far more than Joe. Why not use some of that legal authority and help rid Maricopa County of a dangerous, mentally deranged tyrant?

Nursing Big Burgers

Of course, Terry Goddard doesn't have time to investigate Sheriff Alzheimer's. The AG's Office has been way too busy writing letters threatening to enforce an unenforceable PC speech code against a small business.

Fortunately, times have changed since such PC bullcrap was in vogue back in the '80s and '90s, and Goddard's prude patrol had to back off its effort at regulating the use of the word "nurse" at Tempe's Heart Attack Grill.

See, the AG's legal beagles represent the Arizona State Nursing Board, and up until about a week ago, both were hell-bent on bullying Grill owner Jon Basso (a.k.a. "Dr. Jon") right out of business.

As previously reported in this space ("Nursing Grudge," November 9), the AG's Office and the nursing board took offense to Basso's theme restaurant, which features waitresses in sexy nurse outfits. They cited possible violation of state laws aimed at preventing crackpots from imitating medical professionals. And they sent a few letters to Dr. Jon urging him to remove any mention of the protected title of "nurse" from his signage and Web site. In response, Basso added a disclaimer stating nobody on his staff was an actual medical professional. As if . . .

This fowl cried foul over what was clearly a First Amendment issue, and it wasn't alone in its squawking. John Stossel of ABC-TV's 20/20 weighed in on the issue during the November 17 edition of the long-running newsmagazine show. During his regular "Give Me a Break" segment, Stossel examined the battle Basso was enduring and lambasted his critics as "killjoys."

In response to this sort of backlash, the AG's Office and the nursing board beat a hasty retreat. At its most recent meeting earlier this month, the board voted to "take no action" on the matter.

The Bird rang up the AG's Office, but according to press secretary Andrea Esquer, they can't comment "due to attorney-client privilege." The office acts as the official lawyer for all state agencies. Convenient.

Though state officials are mum on why they turned tail, Basso thinks it's, in part, 'cause of this rancorous rooster's rantings: "I figure they backed down because of all the attention they got from you and from Stossel."

The whole thing's been a boon to Basso's business, and the publicity keeps on coming. Recently, he was visited by German TV, and Basso says national radio talk show host Tom Leykis has scheduled a February visit.

Says Basso with a shit-eatin' grin, "It would've been great if [the AG's Office and the nursing board] would've kept this thing going for years."

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