Before everyone in Tempe gets all excited about Arizona State football’s blowout last night, let’s remember the win came against the lowly Lumberjacks from Northern Arizona.
For those of you who have never heard of Northern Arizona, the game was similar to what a 7th grade flag-football team playing the New England Patriots would look like. The score was 63-to-6 and ASU hasn’t lost to NAU since 1938. The game was never going to have much significance as an actual “game” from the get go.
What was significant was that yesterday was the debut of new ASU head coach Todd Graham, who took over the Sun Devils after former coach, Dennis Erickson, was fired. Graham’s Sun Devil debut has been a long time coming for the coach, as Graham said in December during his introductory press conference that coaching ASU was his “dream job.”
Graham, of course, is the former head coach of Rice (2006), Tulsa (2007-2010), and Pittsburgh (2011), all positions he at one time or another called “dream jobs” before bailing for supposed greener pastures elsewhere. Maybe Graham’s vision of a ‘dream job’ is like that movie Inception, where his dreams are within dreams are within dreams.
I was not a fan of Graham’s ASU hiring. For a program that has every ingredient to be a giant in college football, yet has struggled (with few exceptions) for legitimacy, hiring Graham seemed like adding another clown into a one-tent circus. With his text message departure from Pitt, the whole sports world was laughing at Graham, and as a consequence, laughing at ASU. I was very vocal against ASU, when it attempted to hire SMU coach June Jones as Erickson’s replacement, but when the university pulled the offer and hired Graham instead, I suddenly found myself oddly wishing they could give Jones his contract back.
Yet, since Graham’s arrival in the desert, the dreaming coach has done everything possible to try to make the Sun Devil faithful forget the past and here, look at the shiny brand new future!
To the booster’s delight, he brought back Camp Tontozona and makes his players wear khakis and ties rather than Nike jump suits and sweats. He preaches discipline, faith and integrity, and there must be some stipulation in his contract because as he’s doing this, he mentions ASU’s legendary coach, Frank Kush, every few sentences.
I’m pretty sure during Erickson’s tenure, he said none of those things. Right, Vontaze Burfict?
Graham has been a bunch of big talk since he arrived in Arizona, which shouldn’t be a surprise, because he’s been big talk everywhere he coached. Yet, for all his talk, Graham showed last night that there might actually be some substance to what he’s had to say.
Granted, the team beat up NAU, no big deal, but the way they did it was dissimilar to the ways they’ve thrashed the Lumberjacks before. The plays were cleaner, the defense crisper, and instead of miles and miles of penalties, which during the Erickson-era were synonymous with ASU Football, the flags were few and far between.
Because of the competition, there is little to actually take away from ASU’s performance last night, other than a glimpse of something that has plagued the school since it left the WAC and its age of dominance, and joined the Pac-10 in 1978.
Hope that this year might be different. Hope that ASU can finally live up to the all the hype that has surrounded it since it was still in the WAC, and it was the Boise State of its day. Hope the school can finally be taken seriously. Hope that its potential might finally meet its performance. Hope that this year might finally be the year.
Or if not, at least the start of something.
For the first legitimate time in a while, there is real hope in Sun Devil stadium. If yesterday’s performance offered even a glimmer of what might come, maybe Graham’s words might actually carry some weight. Maybe that hope might be more than just a dream.