If you don’t mind, would you help me if the question comes up again? If Todd Graham asks me, “What will it take for us to get the fans to support the program,” what should I say?
I know of three people, and there might be more, at Arizona State who left seven-figure salaries to take a significant pay cut to build ASU athletics. Notice I didn’t say “re-build,” because something has to be built in the first place in order to be “re-built.”
In Graham’s first year, ASU was a field goal versus UCLA away from going to the first ever Pac-12 Championship game. In his second year, ASU won the Pac-12 South Championship.
The university completely broke through its own ceilings and gave an enormous raise to offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. Norvell has received a number of offers to leave for much higher jobs that would normally have led to ASU giving up on keeping a talented, young coach. Not anymore. Arizona State didn’t blow away some of the offers, but it went well above and beyond its track history to prove it is willing to pay to succeed.
Arizona State’s newest commitment is hiring one of the leading stadium architectural firms to run the Sun Devil Stadium renovation. The athletic director that has already stated doing something with the arena is on the agenda.
Every aspect of Arizona State athletics seems to be moving forward. The only thing not moving forward: fan support. One member of the athletic department told me ticket sales to the first game were “abysmal.” “Disappointing” and “not good” were other words and phrases used by two other people with ASU Athletics. It takes 1.2 percent of Maricopa County residents to sell out Sun Devil Stadium.
I’ll never forget last year when Coach Todd Graham asked me what it would take for fans to support the program. I told him to just win, because this was a bandwagon town. I was wrong. Winning hasn’t changed the lack of fan support. Hopefully something changes in the next three weeks.