Competitive Traction Led to Decision by Love

Vice President of University Athletics Lisa Love addressed the media on Sunday evening, to explain her reasons for dismissing Coach Dirk Koetter and how she'll go about the search for a new coach.

"Not a very easy decision to make," said Love in her opening statement. "I want to first note that Dirk Koetter has done remarkable work in raising the level of ASU football. I'm incredibly cognizant of the fact that he has taken us to three bowls in five years, and hopefully four bowls in six years. I'm aware what he has done for the academic profile of the football program and the many other admirable qualities that this guy brings to the table." She added that Koetter didn't want to go into the end of the year banquet, held on Sunday evening, with any dishonesty or "false smiles" and wanted the official announcement of his firing to take place on the same day as the banquet.

Love stated that on Sunday morning she did inform Koetter of her final decision via the phone. At 4:00 p.m. he addressed the team and shortly after that Love talked in front of the squad. The banquet festivities took place following that gathering. She added that the week before the Arizona Game, she did express to Koetter her concerns over where the program was, but the final decision did come on Sunday.

While Love didn't discount the 7-5 record the team has achieved as well as an "important victory" over Arizona, she remarked that the school is looking to be put on "a higher platform." She added that following a contract extension she awarded him through the 2009 season, she was looking for "competitive traction on a higher notch" in the 2006 season. "When we struggled in big games this year that became problematic," she noted, "and therefore led me to making the decision I made. I'm resolute in what I believe Arizona State football can be and will be. This university, behind (ASU President) Michael Crow's leadership is on rather a remarkable trajectory. He sees the vision as one of the greatest public institutions in the United States and therein we want a great football program that emulates that kind of institution."

Love realized that some will question this move, after the aforementioned extension that was given roughly 11 months ago, which will now pay Koetter $2.85 million. "The finances in his position aren't the only finances I invested," she claimed. "After the extension and evaluating the last five years, I said ‘what do we need to do?' Offensively, what I witnessed last year was an offensive line that was hurt, a second-team quarterback Rudy Carpenter, but we still put up great points. But my comment to him (Koetter) was what do we need to do to balance this, so we are competing at a higher notch, and we are not so competitively fragile. In so doing, we made investments in defensive staff as well."

Love added that the buyout amount didn't make her apprehensive about her action. "If I believe it's right for the program, I have to solve that problem (the coaching change) and that problem (the buyout),"she explained. "We will have a plan to get that done, and I believe we'll have some very aggressive thinking people that will help in that regard." On that note, she said that the budget to hire a new head coach "won't be an open checkbook…but it will certainly something I'll work on depending on the talent, and what needs to be negotiated to get the right person for the job." She added that the funds for the buyout won't come from tax payer money, but rather from donations to the Athletic department.

"We went into this season, and we witnessed a tremendous improvement on defense. But we didn't through out the season; gain the competitive traction at the higher notch that I believe was imperative for ASU football," she said. "There's a competitive competency that you know when your team takes the field against the whole lineup of the conference, there's that expectation in the way we you take the field, and we didn't gain the competitive traction through the season that will be the profile of Arizona State football." In his six years Koetter was 2-19 against ranked teams, 0-12 against Pac-10 teams in California, and 21-28 overall in the Pac-10. ASU began conference play in 2006 with three successive losses to California, Oregon and USC.

Love stated that the search for a new head coach starts "five minutes ago…I don't have an intent to hire a search firm (she did say that she won't rule out using such a firm). The most important thing I'm doing right now is hiring a football coach for Arizona State…I've not made any preliminary contact with candidates…I'm attracted to (candidates) who have a powerful profile, who can coach in this type of arena…it's less about charm and more about good talent. Balance in success and completive grit is what I'm looking for."

"The next person I will be hiring won't be shy of (high expectations). He'll clearly understand the goals. The winner of the Pac-10 conference goes to the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is the goal of Sun Devil football. No one should approach me about this job if they don't understand that and they don't understand what's going on at Arizona State University because it's pretty powerful stuff." She did point out that a high degree of confidentiality has to be kept when contacting coaches, both in the college and NFL ranks, that are still employed, and that coaches in that status will certainly be among those contacted by her. A talented coach that may require her to wait a certain length of time won't be dismissed from the discussion because of the timetable involved.

She did admit to being attentive to the feedback she has received from boosters and fans through out the season, but said she "would be in trouble" if she was swayed by public opinion. "I understand passion, I understand frustration, and I understand drive. That has to be balanced by an intelligent approach of how I'm gonna get there."

Love acknowledged that salvaging the 2007 recruiting class will require a lot of work in light of her coaching decision. "We'll be working diligently with staffing and what we are able to do to make those contacts," she said. "I will work at a diligent, but aggressive speed to put a replacement staff in place. This is a great institution that has a lot to offer and is a great place to be."

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