Odegard: ASU football hiring a mess - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Odegard: ASU football hiring a mess

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Reach Kyle Odegard at (480) 898-6834 or kodegard@evtrib.com, and follow his blog at http://blogs.evtrib.com/varsityxtra, or on Twitter @Kyle_Odegard

Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2011 9:53 pm | Updated: 12:46 pm, Tue Jan 3, 2012.

Did you hear the one about the athletic director and school president walking into a press conference?

Sadly for Arizona State football fans, that's the punch line.

It took 17 days for Vice President for University Athletics Lisa Love and ASU President Michael Crow to find a replacement for Dennis Erickson, and while the jury is still out on new coach Todd Graham, the process was a bungled mess. Besides Penn State, ASU was the last major college football program to replace its fired coach, and that's only the tip of the iceberg.

The Sun Devils first struck out with Kevin Sumlin, but given his ties to College Station, there was no shame in watching him choose Texas A&M.

But then came the June Jones fiasco, in which negotiations broke down in advanced stages, reportedly because there was such a negative outcry from fans and boosters that the Arizona State administration got cold feet.

The school released a statement shortly following the meeting with Jones to placate the masses, calling the vast majority of the rumors completely unfounded.

When asked to clear up the inaccuracies involving Jones on Wednesday, Crow dodged.

"Probably the best way for me to answer that is that we made one offer and it was accepted, and you are seeing the result of that process," he said. "There was talk with lots of people, but we made one offer, and one offer was accepted."

While Arizona State may have never technically offered the job to Jones, there was certainly serious dialogue, to the point where Jones' agent, Leigh Steinberg, joined local radio to sell his client to Sun Devil fans.

Love reiterated during Wednesday's press conference that there was rampant misinformed speculation during the search, but didn't want to clear the air.

"Sources and discovery are protected and incredibly value, and so are time frames, oddly enough," Love said. "Although that sounds mysterious, a little bit like a Sherlock Holmes puzzle for you all in the media, I think we're better served by maintaining that degree of privacy."

Maybe Crow and Love don't need to explain themselves, but the length and incompetence of the search has affected the football program. The day before Graham was hired, elite recruit D.J. Foster from Saguaro was asked about the drawn-out process as he decides between Arizona State and Oregon.

"It drives me crazy," he said of the search. "Every day I get madder and madder. I was this close to committing (on Nov. 4). This close."

To be fair, ASU may be right about the extraordinary number of inaccurate news reports during the process, but the school still did a poor job of being proactive, and needed only to look to Tucson.

When Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne began the hiring process, he made it clear to candidates that any informational leaks to the media would be viewed very negatively, or mean disqualification as a candidate.

"I thought it was important to keep things as close to the vest as we possibly could," Byrne said Tuesday. "Every once in awhile, agents, or whomever, will put things out there, and often times it isn't in the University of Arizona's best interests, but in the client's best interests."

When a coach is hired, there's always going to be a faction of the public that likes the move and a faction that hates it. That's the nature of the business. But Byrne, an ASU alum, had control of his search from start to finish.

"I think everything is better when it's behind the scenes, and that's hard to do nowadays," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said Tuesday. "There's so much information out there, the Internet, everyone's got cell phones to take pictures. Being as quiet as it was pretty remarkable."

Arizona State won two more games than Arizona last season and has some good talent returning. With a senior quarterback in Brock Osweiler, the Sun Devils could very well have a successful season in 2012.

But Graham has some work to do mending fences with the ASU community, thanks to this fiasco. He said getting to know the fans personally is something he wants to do.

"Perception is reality," Graham said.

He's right, even if his bosses are trying to fight it.

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