Talk about a buzzkill.
The Arizona State football team is 6-2, ranked in the BCS standings with a quarterback who is delivering results if not national headlines. Their win over Washington State scratched something of the to-do list that had lingered for far too long: a win outside the state of Arizona late in the season. A couple more of those and this team will be playing for the right to go the Rose Bowl. Sorely needed stadium renovations are set to begin next year.
The news emerging that Athletic Director Steve Patterson has left ASU to take the AD job at Texas is akin to the cops knocking on the door asking you to lower the music and keep it down. Sure, the party continues, but it’s not nearly as much fun.
And it has the potential — and at this point, that’s all it is, potential — to do more damage than that.
Patterson was a guest on our show a week ago and was asked point blank by my co-host if he had spoken to any of the members of the Texas search committee. “No, no,” he answered. “That would be a no.”
I followed up by asking him if he would confirm reports that he had turned down the Texas job. His response: “I’m not confirming any report,” he said. “I’m focused on the job I’ve got right here today.”
His slippery answers aside, Patterson doesn’t deserve any grief for accepting this position. It’s the kind of promotion that any person, in any profession, has to at least consider and more likely has to accept. Texas is on line one and would like to offer you their AD job. You don’t say no to stay at ASU.
For years we worried about coaches using Arizona State as a stepping stone. The coaches aren’t sought after, but boy the athletic directors are pure gold. Kevin White to Notre Dame. Gene Smith to Ohio State. Patterson to Texas.
I don’t want to be an alarmist over losing Patterson. I mean this with all due respect, but he’s not the coach. He’s not the quarterback. Right now — today — the 6-2 record is due to Todd Graham, Taylor Kelly and others. And yet concerns remain.
Concern number one: Losing Patterson will potentially slow the efforts of the Sun Devil Stadium face-lift, which is just as vital to the success of the program as the revival on the field. The stadium is in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint, literally and figuratively. The transformation of the team must go hand in hand with that of the place they call home.
Concern number two: The lingering fear that he would take Coach Graham with him. I had a tough time believing it a couple of months ago, and I still don’t buy it now. There is too much at stake for a school with all that money, all those boosters, all that prestige and power, to take a chance on a coach like Graham. That job requires a little more sizzle than Graham currently offers with his steak.
Concern number three: The distraction of Graham leaving causes a lack of focus. This to me is very real and will force Graham to do some of the finest coaching of his brief ASU tenure.