ASU football’s Kenny Dillingham stresses importance of reenergizing the Valley

Nov 27, 2022, 12:20 PM | Updated: 6:20 pm
(Pac-12 Network screenshot)...
(Pac-12 Network screenshot)
(Pac-12 Network screenshot)

The first words out of Arizona State’s new head football coach Kenny Dillingham in front of the media Sunday set the tone for the rest of his introductory press conference: “I’m home.”

Dillingham, who grew up in the Valley and played high school ball at Chaparral High School, let the emotions go, took a moment to gather himself and expressed what coaching his hometown team meant to him.

“This place is special, this state is special, the people in this room are special, I’ve got guys in my wedding right there,” Dillingham said. “Pretty emotional, it’s just who I am. … I’m fired up to be here, fired up to be a Sun Devil.

“We need this entire Valley to come together.”

Dillingham, who spent this past season as the offensive coordinator at Oregon, said his dream job has been head coach of ASU.

He said he remembers almost getting hit by a car while tossing a football at a tailgate before an ASU game when Jake Plummer was the quarterback, giving real examples of how his roots shaped his enthusiasm for joining the program.

The newest head coach said a critical reason why he was hired was that he is a Valley native, and he stressed that the football program needs support from the community in order to be successful.

“The college landscape is changing,” Dillingham said. “And this isn’t about me. This isn’t about our staff. This isn’t about just our players. This is about the Valley. We need the Valley. I’m gonna say that over and over again. … I say that because we need you. So if you want to be involved, find a way.”

Reenergizing the Sun Devil fanbase was a major theme of the press conference and a message not only harped by Dillingham but also by vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson and university president Michael Crow.

Crow said the goal is for ASU football to be the focal point for football thinkers in the area.

“We’ve got to go back and connect and reconnect and newly connect and make this an unbelievably exciting place to see unbelievable college athletes play fantastic high-speed, highly innovative, high-scoring football,” Crow said. “That’s what we’re after.”

Jean Boyd, ASU’s deputy athletics director, phrased it as a need to “activate the Valley.”

Dillingham said the program will be “all hands on deck” in recruiting in Arizona and acknowledged the importance of NIL deals and the transfer portal.

He felt that Phoenix, as the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country, should have an advantage attracting talent and support.

The head coach asked Sun Devil nation what it can do to help, from booster support to purchasing season tickets or attending other ASU athletic games or events.

“We need butts in seats,” he said.

Dillingham said it will take time and relationships to get ASU to where the program wants to be: a top-15 program nationally and title contender, according to Anderson.

The head coach said he will work to continue building those relationships in the Valley.

“We need everything that this Valley has all in, because I am all in,” Dillingham said.

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