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Five things to be thankful for: Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State mascot "Sparky" points during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

It’s Thanksgiving, which means people all over the country will be gathering around a table in order to give thanks for what they have.

Here’s what you can be thankful for if you’re an Arizona State Sun Devil.

5. Five straight bowl games – OK, so we weren’t convinced this was going to happen after consecutive losses to Utah, Oregon and Washington State, but the Devils are bowl-eligible once again. Yes, there are way too many bowl games, but earning an invite every year for five years isn’t as common as you’d think. In fact, it’s the first time it’s happened in school history.

Kalen Ballage, Terrence Als

4. Stability in the football coaching ranks – Todd Graham came to Tempe in December of 2011 with the reputation of being a job-jumper. The label wasn’t totally unfair after he’d left Rice and Pittsburgh for better jobs after just one year in each location. So when the native Texan talked about ASU being his “dream job,” some understandably rolled their eyes. Four years later, there is very little in terms of Graham’s name being linked to coaching openings around the country. He’s donated a lot of his own money toward the Sun Devil Stadium construction project. It appears the head coach is in for the long haul in Tempe, and considering what he’s accomplished so far, that’s a good thing.

Todd Graham

3. Construction and growth – Becoming and staying a national power in football is closely tied to a program’s facilities. It’s no surprise schools like Alabama, Oregon and Texas A&M consistently win football games and draw the nation’s best and brightest recruits when they practice and play in state-of-the-art facilities. It’s taking a little while, but that process is happening in Tempe. Part two of Sun Devil Stadium’s long-overdue makeover will commence soon, now that ASU has completed its home schedule and the Cactus Bowl will be played at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. Fans are more apt to come to games in a comfortable, modern facility. More people in seats enhances the game day experience, which in turn can go a long way in impressing recruits. Kudos to the current regime at ASU for finally getting this project in motion.

2. Bobby Hurley – Herb Sendek isn’t a bad guy and he wasn’t a bad basketball coach. But after nine years in Tempe, it was time for a change. That change came in the form of Bobby Hurley, the legendary former Duke point guard, who was hired to guide the ASU men’s basketball program. He’s an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks and legendary in the sport. He gives the program a more dynamic public face and serves as a key ambassador to the community in a saturated Phoenix sports market. And the early returns have been pretty good, too. After an “embarrasing loss” to Sacramento State (his own words), the early returns have been positive. The Sun Devils beat N.C. State and just barely lost to Marquette in the championship of the FanDuel Legends Classic in Brooklyn Tuesday. ASU is also still in the mix to land the services of big man Thon Maker, a five-star recruit from Canada, who is also considering Kentucky, Indiana, Notre Dame and a few other schools. Hurley’s presence is a big reason why.

He’s also part of a string of impressive coaching hires by athletic director Ray Anderson, who tabbed former NCBWA National Coach of the Year Tracy Smith to lead the baseball program and Bob Bowman, who served as 18-time Olympic gold medal winner Michael Phelps’ personal coach, to guide the swimming program.

Bobby Hurley

1. The Territorial Cup is home where it belongs – It just doesn’t feel right when college football’s oldest rivalry trophy has to travel to that other school down south. ASU trounced their in-state rival 52-37 last Saturday, returning the cup to Tempe and normalcy to the state and universe once again.


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