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Another victory for Todd Graham before his first game
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Another victory for Todd Graham before his first game

Near the end of the press conference introducing Todd
Graham as the new Arizona State head football coach last
December, a question was asked about how Graham felt about
rustic facilities and lack of television.

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.