When Arizona State beat the University of Arizona in the Territorial Cup, it looked like coach Todd Graham had saved his job.
A day later, Graham was fired.
Both met with the media Sunday and Ray Anderson, ASU’s vice president for university athletics, discussed the future of the program. Anderson said he wants someone who has head coaching experience and one that will “come in with an open mind” about the current coaching staff. He also wants a coach who can effectively “recruit in California and Arizona and places in addition to Texas at a high level” and who will be serious about the academics and conduct of his players.
“I’m not bringing my own guy in. I’m bringing in someone that I think will elevate and advance ASU football and ASU, the institution,” Anderson said. “I’m not really concerned about my guy. I want the right guy for the right reasons.”
So where does ASU go from here? Several names have received the most attention.
The speculation that continues to persist involves Kevin Sumlin, former Texas A&M coach. Sumlin was almost hired by the Sun Devils the last time the team had a vacancy for their head coach position but he decided to go to Texas A&M. This rumor has been building for a while and picked up steam when Texas A&M fired him Sunday. With the shared history and how, according to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, there is still support for Sumlin within the program, this is a potential marriage.
Sumlin posted a 51-26 record in six seasons with the Aggies. But his 11-2 record after his first season was the only time he recorded double-digit victories
Other names attached to the opening include Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, who has experience in the Pac-12 as the defensive coordinator for the Stanford Cardinal from 2011 to 2014 and is a Phoenix native. Though his Vanderbilt team has struggled record-wise — in four seasons he has never posted a winning record — he would bring a new voice and help a defense which took positive steps this year but still needs to improve to reach the lofty goals Anderson set for ASU.
“We should be top 3 in pac-12 every year, top 15 nationally” Anderson talking about his high expectations for the football program
— Omar Soussi (@omarksoussi) November 26, 2017
Another name in the rumor mill is Michigan passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton. He not only served as the offensive coordinator for Stanford but was also on NFL coaching staffs — the Colts and Browns — before moving to Michigan. Though he has no ties to Arizona or ASU, this could be more of a longshot due to Anderson not wanting to “throw a grenade” on the program. He would like his next coach to at least think about keeping ASU’s coordinators with the team. Anderson also said said he believes the new hire should have head coaching experience, something Hamilton is lacking.
Meanwhile, Anderson said he will make himself “scarce” and is fully committed to finding and hiring his new football coach before the early recruiting period begins on Dec. 21.
He made it clear that he wants ASU to compete in “major bowl games on a consistent basis” and that this program should be a Top 15 one nationally every year. He also wants players to come here not only for an “Ivy League, Stanford-level education” but at the same time prepare them to play in the NFL.
He has begun his search for the coach who can accomplish that.