DAN BICKLEY

Arizona State’s move to Big 12 brings security to program’s future

Aug 8, 2023, 6:54 PM | Updated: Aug 9, 2023, 7:26 am

Before the founding of the Big 12 in 1994, former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer was asked how a brand-new conference could possibly thrive without identity, history, or traditions.

His response was prophetic:

“Tradition is not a concern,” Switzer reportedly said. “It’s business.”

Welcome to College Football 2023. It’s business.

Yes, Arizona State might’ve gone kicking and screaming into the last Big 12 lifeboat. Their athletic director may have sparked a message board maelstrom with his poor attempt at humor, which was instead perceived as ingrateful, haughty dismissal of Morgantown, West Virginia.

But the Sun Devils landed in a good spot. Safe and secure. All good.

No doubt, this is a strange cultural fit. ASU wants to be like Stanford without the $37 billion endowment. They want to be a southwest school with a West coast vibe, drawing elite athletes from Southern California. They prefer to play football games in the Pacific Northwest and on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. They don’t relate with some of their new neighbors and upcoming road trips.

Anderson said as much during Saturday’s press gathering, fumbling a burning stick of comedy dynamite handed to him by Michael Crow in the middle of a press gathering. To his credit, Anderson has reached out and apologized for the awkward attempt at humor.

In the end, the Big 12 will be very good for ASU. They are the conference that brought the spread offense to college football, fueled by the pipeline of athletic quarterbacks coming out of Texas. Their Heisman Trophy winners are Ricky Williams, Robert Griffin III, Sam Bradford, Baker Mayfield, and Kyler Murray; while also producing Patrick Mahomes, Vince Young, and Adrian Peterson.

Their programs compete at a different heat. Football matters more in the Big 12, where fans are serious about the sanctity of gameday. Meanwhile, ASU still leads the nation in fans screaming from the couch or at the local sports bar. Gameday crowds in Tempe will need to step up their game and their commitment, and ASU should make campus tailgating a new priority. Otherwise, ASU’s facilities might be overrun by opposing fans, just like State Farm Stadium on Sundays.

ASU is also joining a conference that has turned a significant corner after sustaining the loss of its top two programs (Texas, Oklahoma). By contrast, the Pac-12 was abandoned by USC and UCLA and couldn’t even make it to the expanded playoffs. And in the end, ASU will benefit from two missing ingredients it sorely lacked in the Pac-12:

Strong leadership and a red-hot commissioner.

Dan Bickley

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