Arizona State reaches rock bottom at end of Pac-12 stay

Mar 15, 2024, 5:31 AM | Updated: 12:51 pm

ASU football field...

The Arizona State Sun Devils marching band performs before the NCAAF game at Mountain America Stadium on November 18, 2023 in Tempe, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Sun Devils 49-13. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Rock bottom is mostly a metaphor, a fictional location, a cliché for sports teams that have fallen and can’t get up.

But you can find it on the map at Arizona State University.

Alas, the pin drops on the Sun Devils Athletics department, where the football program has been shamed and humiliated and is now scrambling for traction; where the men’s basketball program lost by 33 points in their first and last Pac-12 Tournament game, the same as it ever was; and where a once towering women’s basketball program lost 15 of 18 conference games.

Eleventh place is the new norm in Tempe, the new mattress for the sleeping giant.

This seems to be a moment of reckoning for ASU president Michael Crow, a decorated visionary who has reshaped the local landscape. Crow brings to Tempe what Jerry Colangelo brought to Phoenix. He would be a beloved Valley icon if not for the spectacular struggles of his football and basketball teams, the two major players and passion points of college athletics.

In this narrow arena, Crow’s attempts at innovation have failed spectacularly. He is largely responsible for the disastrous reign of Larry Scott and the ensuing demise of the Pac-12. He has been resistant and slow to embrace the new transactional world of major college sports.

Even worse, the dreaded rivals in Tucson have become beastly between the lines. Arizona’s basketball program might win the upcoming national championship staged in Glendale. Even without Jedd Fisch, the football program remains on a spiritual high entering a new frontier. While ASU wanders into a new conference like a dazed and wounded animal, Arizona just took out a digital billboard outside the Big 12 basketball tournament in Kansas City.

In effect, the Wildcats said the quiet part out loud: the difference between the two schools in the sports that matter most has never been more profound or depressing.

Here’s hoping that ASU finally rises to the moment, that the school doesn’t waste a perfectly good crisis. The vacancy at athletic director might be another red flag, but it’s also a great opportunity for somebody to make a major impact. Because there’s nowhere to go but up.

Football coach Kenny Dillingham is clearly on board, armed with defiance and energy. Bobby Hurley deserves another year with a better budget. And Crow needs to hire an athletic director who can find the money, tapping into filthy rich alumni who could use a boost in profile, like LIV defectors Phil Mickelson and Jon Rahm.

He should also open the vault for Greg Byrne, the former Sun Devil and current Alabama athletic director who no longer has Nick Saban as his head coach. Even at the risk of a phone call that might go unanswered.

Either way, the time has come for ASU. Are you in the game or not?

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7.

Arizona State Basketball

Alston Mason #3 of the Oklahoma Sooners takes a shot as Tyrese Hunter #11 of the Iowa State Cyclone...

David Veenstra

Missouri State’s leading scorer Alston Mason commits to Arizona State

Missouri State leading scorer Alston Mason committed to play for the Arizona State on Friday. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

4 hours ago

Jerrance Howard...

Arizona Sports

Arizona State basketball reportedly hires Jerrance Howard to Bobby Hurley’s coaching staff

Arizona State basketball has reportedly hired former Kansas and Texas assistant coach Jerrance Howard to join Bobby Hurley's staff.

2 days ago

Frankie Collins spearheaded ASU's defense with six first half steals in a win against USC on Jan. 2...

David Veenstra

Former Arizona State basketball guard Frankie Collins reportedly commits to TCU

Former Arizona State guard Frankie Collins has committed to TCU. Collins has one year of eligibility remaining.

7 days ago

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley and assistant Jermaine Kimbrough...

Arizona Sports

Grand Canyon hires Bobby Hurley’s top Arizona State assistant, Jermaine Kimbrough

Arizona State assistant coach Jermaine Kimbrough has departed Bobby Hurley's staff and joined nearby Grand Canyon head coach Bryce Drew.

7 days ago

Bobby Hurley claps during a game...

Arizona Sports

Former Ball State leader Basheer Jihad commits to ASU, Bryant Selebangue in portal

Former Ball State Cardinals forward Basheer Jihad has committed to the Arizona State Sun Devils men's basketball program.

8 days ago

South Carolina celebrates winning an NCAA Championship...

Associated Press

NCAA women’s title between South Carolina, Iowa was most-watched hoops game in 5 years

South Carolina's victory over Iowa in the women's NCAA championship game had a preliminary audience average of 18.7 million on ABC and ESPN.

11 days ago

Arizona State reaches rock bottom at end of Pac-12 stay