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.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons