As speculation about the next Arizona State football coach continued to run rampant on Tuesday, the Sun Devils returned to the practice field for the first time since Dirk Koetter’s dismissal last week.
With Koetter and his assistants working through the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, ASU expressed confidence that the coaching change will not adversely affect their focus for the contest against Hawaii.
“I would hope that everybody is ready to go,” quarterback Rudy Carpenter said. “I think that’s one of the things that got us here, the fact that we are so competitive. Once we started practicing, guys started competing again, and we always want to win.”
The prevailing circumstance of the Hawaii Bowl practices — Koetter’s imminent departure — dictates that trying to win will be the sole purpose of the Sun Devils’ preparation. Developing younger players, typically a big priority in the postseason, will not be stressed.
“We’re not going to work with the younger guys, and that allows you to keep things a lot shorter, because (the development) took up a lot of time,” Koetter said. “Our one focus is to win. We’ll do everything we can to win the game and have a fun time doing it.”
ASU plans to utilize just 11 of the 15 bowl practices allowed by the NCAA, and the workouts are scheduled to last no more than two hours.
As for Koetter, he politely declined to discuss his dismissal or future.
“Right now, the only thing in my coaching future is this bowl game,” Koetter said. “This is not about me.”
As for Koetter’s successor, the latest name to hit the gossip mill is Idaho coach Dennis Erickson, who a columnist for The Oregonian on Tuesday wrote was in talks with ASU. Erickson, a two-time national title winner at Miami (Fla.), has previously coached in the Pac-10 at Washington State and Oregon State.
However, Erickson told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that he has not been contacted by ASU, and Idaho athletic director Rob Spear told the Tribune that nobody has requested permission to speak with his coach.
“I will grant permission for anyone to talk to Dennis,” Spear said. “But nobody from Arizona State or anywhere else has asked to speak to Dennis, and Dennis says that nobody has talked to him.”
Boston College coach Tom O’Brien, rumored to be in the mix for the ASU and Stanford positions, issued a statement through the school: “I’m not a candidate for any job. My focus is getting the team ready to play Navy (in the Meineke Car Care Bowl) on Dec. 30.”
Texas El-Paso coach Mike Price has been linked to the opening. But UTEP athletic director Bob Stull told the El Paso Times that ASU has not sought permission to speak with Price, who won two Pac-10 titles at Washington State.
For the players, the firing of Koetter and the rumors about a new coach has opened their eyes to the business side of college athletics.
“Everybody was upset at first, mad, wanting to know why,” Carpenter said. “But I think everyone is going to stay, wait it out, see who the new coach is and see if they jell with that person.”
The Sun Devils will practice today and are off on Thursday and Friday due to final exams. They will work out seven times in Tempe before departing for Hawaii on Dec. 18.
Koetter said that he is hopeful that receiver/cornerback Rudy Burgess (ankle), offensive tackle Brandon Rodd (knee) and cornerback Chris Baloney (leg) will play against Hawaii. As for receiver Terry Richardson, who has been out since October with a knee injury, the coach said, “That’s a good question. With Terry, you never know.”
Tight end Zach Miller is excused from today’s practice to head to Orlando, Fla., where he and assistant coach Tom Osborne will attend the College Football Awards show on Thursday. Miller is one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s top tight end.
In other awards news, defensive end Dexter Davis and linebacker Travis Goethel were chosen honorable mention freshman all-Americans by The Sporting News on Tuesday.