ASU fans back to familiar refrain after BYU game: ‘If not now, when?’

Sep 21, 2021, 5:42 PM
Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards watches warm ups prior to an NCAA college football game again...

Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards watches warm ups prior to an NCAA college football game against UNLV, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

There are times when Herm Edwards sounds broken. Like someone picked the lock and stole his swagger.

If not, that’s certainly the case with a diehard Arizona State booster I spoke with on Tuesday. The one who cornered me in a health club locker room to tell me he was finished with the football program.

“I was in my late 30’s when they went to the Rose Bowl,” he said. “I’m 63 now. I realized it’s never going to happen. We’ve been through, what, four coaches since then? This last game was the last straw.”

The booster is a long-time acquaintance. He has been sharing intelligent opinions about ASU football with me for nearly two decades, good and bad. He is most assuredly not done with the program.

But he represents a large portion of the fan base that feels nauseated by Saturday’s outcome, the ones who truly believed the 2021 Sun Devils were the long-awaited prize. The team that would end all the suffering. A team that should’ve pounded Brigham Young and not shriveled in the din of Provo, Utah.

Nothing is over just yet. Losing to BYU on the road is not a capital offense. But there’s an undeniable pall over the fan base that can be phrased in the form of question: If not now, when?

Especially with a NCAA investigation that seems to be moving faster than most.

As for that nasty matter of allegedly funding illegal recruiting visits in the midst of a pandemic: ASU committed 16 penalties against BYU. That happened after incurring 13 penalties in the season opener. They are averaging over 106 penalty yards per game, which means a glaring problem is not being fixed. They are a tremendously undisciplined team. And if this is truly the best roster ASU has fielded in years, then the coaching has been positively horrendous.

After Saturday’s loss, a fan posted the following on Twitter: “I cannot believe I thought BYU was a bad football team. We’re the frauds.”

Another noted how Edwards had stridently brushed off any concerns or preparations for the altitude of Provo, which is over 4,500 feet and well above Tempe.

The program has maintained there are no new distractions inside the facility. The ragged performances say otherwise. And you can see the obvious dilemma:

How can leaders of this program demand extreme discipline from its players when they allegedly showed very little of their own? When three of their assistant coaches have been sidelined for something that feels bigger and more nefarious than a small number of rogue recruiters?

The coaches are doing a lot of talking these days. But is anyone really listening? And what does that say in a season that was supposed to be ASU’s ticket to glory?

Discipline doesn’t happen overnight. It must be a bulwark of the program. In the case of former Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson, it took a coaching change and the appointment of Todd Graham, Edwards’ predecessor. For ever-faithful Sun Devils, from the ones who dubbed me “Ban Dickley” two decades ago to the crestfallen booster on Tuesday, this seems like the cruelest twist of all: a train derailing just when it’s on track for Pasadena.

Again, there is time to make this right. The Sun Devils need a clean game and a long winning streak. Because at the moment, in the harshest of light, this undisciplined football team could be mistaken for something much worse: The walls closing in on an entire program.

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ASU fans back to familiar refrain after BYU game: ‘If not now, when?’