“We should beat this team.”
“I don’t like playing in these games because you can’t win for losing.”
“I expect us to go out there and dominate.”
These are not the normal comments from a college head football coach. We’ve learned over the last two and a half years that coach Todd Graham is not the normal head football coach.
Tuesday night on his coach’s show, he told me that Jamil Douglas wants the offensive coordinator to call more run plays. “Ask him about that,” he said. “I like to stir things up a bit.”
No one in the nation coaches like Graham. He’s in-your-face but positive. His intensity is completely off the deep end yet scores of players swear by him. One former player is even marrying his daughter.
This is a fulcrum year for the future of ASU. If Graham gets back to the Pac-12 Championship Game, some football powers will have seen enough. The national stench that was on Graham when he left Pittsburgh will be completely flushed out.
In Gainesville, fans are restless. Despite a mostly joke non-conference schedule and eight home games, Florida plays six preseason Top-25 teams including no. 1 Florida State and no. 2 Alabama. If things go south for Will Muschamp, UF will come calling with more money, better facilities, a better recruiting base and better fans.
How many times can Graham look up at 10,000 empty seats and not think he’s done all he can at ASU?
What appears to be different now is the vision of the entire athletic program. It started with the hiring of Steve Patterson — and the people he brought in with him.
Although the job is not complete, the Ray Anderson group has ramped up expectations. Sure, ASU still has plenty of the narrow-minded, protect-my-turf types. As the people with tunnel vision continue to vanish from the program with greater regularity due to the new regime, there should be an assumption that outside support will increase as well.
One twenty-something at Majerle’s Tuesday night said, “I’ve never been a Sun Devil Club member. I became one because of that man.”
He pointed at the empty chair where Todd Graham had been sitting a few minutes earlier.
It’s an interesting time at ASU. The program needs Todd Graham. And Todd Graham still needs ASU.
Fans are still disillusioned on just how far behind they are from being a big-time fan base like an Ohio State, Alabama or Oklahoma. Yet the ASU athletic department will let another opportunity slip away if they don’t see a bigger picture to attract more fans.
Although it’s sad more ASU fans aren’t motivated by love of school and community to support their team, there’s little doubt many regimes of the past at ASU have dropped the ball in enticing new support or keeping the support they had. Although Graham is comfortably under contract, every win will make him more attractive to big-time programs.
The only way to avoid this is for ASU to become a big-time program.
In the near future, we’ll know if ASU stands for Arizona’s Stagnant University or Arizona’s Statement University.