Forde: ASU, UA middle of the pack in overall athletic success
It’s been quite some time since both Arizona State and Arizona competed at the top of some of the more popular sports in college athletics.
Both football programs made it to the postseason last year, but fell in their respective bowl games.
Arizona State’s basketball program had its best season under head coach Bobby Hurley since he arrived on campus in 2015. The Sun Devils upset four ranked teams throughout the course of the season, including then-ranked No. 2 Kansas on the road.
Hurley led the Sun Devils to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014, but couldn’t advance past the First Four.
Meanwhile, head coach Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats captured their second straight Pac-12 championship, but were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Each school has their fair share of accolades as a whole, but where do they compare to other universities in the Power 5 conferences?
According to Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde, both Arizona State and Arizona fall in the middle of the pack.
31. Arizona State
Top 2017-18 sport: softball. Trajectory: Up. The Sun Devils reversed a three-year downward trend by jumping up 12 spots in ’17-18, from 43rd to 31st. And that’s with very little help from fall sports. Finishing 20 spots ahead of Arizona was good news in Tempe.
Ranked No. 8 overall in the country, the Sun Devil softball program played a key role in Arizona State’s ranking among other schools.
The Sun Devils advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2013. After sweeping South Carolina in the Super Regionals in Tempe, Arizona State advanced to Oklahoma City, where they were one of eight teams left vying for a national championship.
Despite a valiant effort, however, the Sun Devils were eliminated from play. But their achievements on the year helped propel the university up 12 spots from Forde’s 2017 rankings, and it looks as if they are projected to rise even more in the years to come.
As for Arizona, Forde admits it was a tough year for sports in Tucson.
Top 2017-18 sport: women’s golf (national champion). Trajectory: Down. It was a tough year in Tucson, where the Wildcats slid out of the top 50 for the first time this century. With a coach firing in football and scandal in basketball, the women’s golf title is about the only thing to brag about in Arizona sports this year.
Arizona was at the center of two separate scandals in the 2017-18 college athletics season.
Rich Rodriguez was removed as the head coach of the football program after a former employee of the Department of Athletics alleged that he had harassed her “on multiple occasions.”
Meanwhile, Sean Miller was at the center of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption after a report from ESPN claimed Miller had been heard on wiretaps authorizing payments to secure the commitment from former center Deandre Ayton.
The allegations, however, were denied by Miller as he gained support and a new contract from the university.
Still, Miller’s recruiting class fell apart, as top prospects such as Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef, withdrew his commitment.
Miller has started rebuilding his 2018-19 recruiting class, but Forde believes the Wildcats’ trajectory as a whole remains on the decline.