A man is dead, so first priority in a shaken Valley of the Sun should be given to the friends and family of Brandon Falkner.
Arizona State tailback Loren Wade has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Falkner outside a Scottsdale nightspot. The incident has ripped through the Arizona State community.
|Loren Wade was set to take over starting RB duties from Hakim Hill (pictured), who was kicked off the team in December. (Getty Images)|
Wade, working his way back from an NCAA-related suspension last year, was projected as the Sun Devils' starting tailback. Was Arizona State so desperate for a quality tailback that it was willing to give Wade the benefit of the doubt?
It's strange that, invariably, the benefit extended to an athlete is in direct proportion to his statistics; Wade set the school freshman rushing record in 2003 before being suspended last season.
Wade was part of a team that was Arizona State's best in years. Coach Dirk Koetter was building a talented trap that he hoped to spring on Oct. 1 when national champion Southern California visits Sun Devil Stadium.
"This is a tragedy that will have a significant impact on our institution and our athletic program," athletic director Gene Smith told reporters.
Start with the nation's No. 1 party school (named by Playboy in 2002) now dealing with a murder. There was the nationally broadcast footage of Wade being led through the jail and appearing before a judge. Rivals won't need to use negative recruiting. They'll just tell recruits to turn on the TV.
Now this: The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday that Wade twice threatened female Arizona State athletes since being suspended. A more disturbing picture is beginning to emerge.
Smith said he knew of a threat made against a gymnast in November. Koetter handled a threat made earlier this month against a former Arizona State soccer player.
Early Saturday morning, Wade reportedly drove to pick up that soccer player, Haley van Blommestein, at the club when he spotted Falkner talking to her.
Perhaps it was the wrong place, wrong time for Falkner, which doesn't reduce the tragedy but begins to explain it. But if Wade, already having been suspended once, was allowed to keep pursuing his roster spot after the threats, then the Arizona State administration has some explaining to do.
Specifically, why was Wade still on the team? Was Arizona State willing to go the extra mile with troublemakers only because they could play?