Another victory for Todd Graham before his first game
The query had to do, of course, with Camp Tontozona and whether the new ASU head man would be willing to have his Sun Devil teams train in the cool pines east of Payson like so many coaches had before him -- that is, until Dennis Erickson put a halt to the tradition in 2008.
Graham's response was vague and safe.
"I have a great respect for traditions, and we'll work hard to maintain the traditions at Arizona State University," he said. "A lot of times, traditions are lost through coaching changes and things like that. So I'd be very open to listen to that."
I remember walking out of that press conference thinking that Graham said all the right things. I also remember thinking there's no way a return to Tontozona would seriously be considered. It's just another coach's version of campaign promises. Tell 'em what they want to hear.
I was wrong.
Thursday, Graham, along with ASU athletic director Steve Patterson and Payson mayor Kenny Evans, unveiled the "Return to Camp T Campaign", which outlined a plan for the Sun Devils to return to Tontozona -- in preparation for the upcoming season.
All necoaches talk about the importance of tradition. Most don't follow through.
Thursday's announcement is just another reason why ASU fans should be excited about Graham's tenure in Tempe. He's following through.
Tradition is important, and Camp Tontozona is a huge part of ASU football tradition. The greatest teams ever to wear the maroon and gold -- the undefeated 1975 squad of Frank Kush, the 1986 John Cooper-led Rose Bowl champs and the 1996 Pac-10 titlist team of Bruce Snyder -- all shed blood, sweat and tears at Camp T prior to those magical seasons.
There are some that believe the rustic facility had feelings of its own and cast a curse on Erickson's ASU teams following his decision to vacate the premises.
I'm not sure I'm buying that, but for a football program that has mostly floundered for the last 15 years, reliance on tradition becomes even more important for a success-starved fan base in an over- saturated sports market.
Graham and Patterson understand this. So much so that they're ready to commit to a project that requires a minimum of $150,000 of work to even get the facility operational.
It's only scheduled for five days in August, but I do believe there's value in coaches, players and support staff bonding among the tall pine trees with nothing -- and I mean nothing -- to concentrate on but football.
Will a return to Tontozona translate to more wins in 2012? I highly doubt that.
But this move isn't about this season. It's about the future.
Todd Graham and company have just appeased a huge portion of Sun Devil Nation while taking another huge step toward erasing a decade and a half of mediocrity for Arizona State football.