Following a 7-5 2017 record and a victory over the Arizona Wildcats, nearly all of Sun Devil Nation had thought Todd Graham had done enough to save his position. Athletic Director Ray Anderson, however, had a different idea.
Just fourteen hours after the Territorial Cup game victory, Anderson held a meeting with Graham and informed him of his termination. As news broke, many people took to social media to voice their frustrations with the decision to let Graham go.
Still upset about how this all went down. Fired a man who loved, cared for & put his whole heart into this football team & university. Do we want to be just 7-5? No. But this was not the time to fire. Not at all. Program was trending up under CTG. Just feel for him & the team.
— Con (@soccerwade98) November 27, 2017
On that day, it seemed as if Sun Devil Nation was defeated, despite one of the largest victories for the team all season coming just hours before. After a roller coaster ride of a season, a majority of Sun Devil fans were all in agreement that they wanted to see Graham stay despite many calls for him to go at the beginning of the season.
There was a lot of buzz surrounding who would be the new head coach at this time last week, but one of the last people on anyone’s radar was Herm Edwards. Edwards has been out of coaching for years and didn’t seem to be looking to get back into it.
On Wednesday evening, news outlets confirmed that Edwards would be the next head coach of ASU football, pending approval by Dr. Crow.
BREAKING: Herm Edwards is expected to be Arizona State’s next football coach pending approval of University President Dr. Michael Crow https://t.co/tZAfzu1Rs1
— SunDevilSource.com (@SunDevilSource) November 29, 2017
Some fans were disappointed and thought this would set the program back by multiple years. Others felt that this was exactly what the program needed to keep moving forward. Some sports analysts thought it made no sense at all, yet others thought that he would elevate the program to a new level.
On Sunday night, Sun Devil Athletics made it official with a press release. The release outlined the expectations for the programs future and how it aligns with the overall vision of the university.
“Our goal for this football program is to reach unprecedented heights,” Anderson said in the press release. “In the spirit of innovation, our vision for this program is to have a head coach who serves as a CEO and is the central leader with a collaborative staff around him that will elevate the performance of players and coaches on the field, in the classroom and in our community. Equally important, the head coach will be a dynamic and tireless recruiter.”
In the press release, Anderson described the change in the department’s model as a shift towards something similar to the NFL.
The hiring of Edwards is many different things; risky, unconventional and even bold. Anderson and Edwards go way back, and on the surface it appears that is in fact the only reason that he considered the job.
“There’s a connection with the AD there, Ray Anderson and myself, that I owe him to come down there and speak, so that’s where it’s at,” Edwards said during an interview with a local radio station on Wednesday morning.
In his first official appearance as a Sun Devil at Monday’s press conference, it seemed as if Edwards didn’t even know the mascot of the school he was coaching at.
Anyone want to tell him? pic.twitter.com/ugrpCVNBY6
— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) December 4, 2017
The decision by Anderson, which is clearly questionable, is a gamble. This could end in a few different ways.
Best case scenario is that the Sun Devils are the leaders in a new wave of college football. Anderson was vocal about his disappointment with the current college football landscape and how things are done. This bold move by Anderson is something that can be admired. Anderson, rather than following the same patterns, decided to be proactive and think outside the box. This is something that many people wouldn’t do, which is why if it works Anderson will receive even more kudos.
Worse case scenario, this hire turns out to be a total flop. The Sun Devils struggle on the field, and the already struggling fan attendance dips even lower. Anderson and/or Edwards get fired, and the program has to work on rebuilding yet again and goes back to the drawing board.
A key fact many people are focusing on is that Edwards hasn’t been on the NCAA sidelines since 1989, when he was a part of the Staff at San Jose State. Another fact being questioned are the records he posted as a coach in the NFL with both the Jets and the Chiefs.
What is being overlooked is that Edwards is still very much around football.
For the last eight years, Edwards has coached the Under Armour All-American bowl, where top high school prospects from around the nation come to play. He also still is heavily immersed in football talk, as an analyst at ESPN. These both will be helpful when it comes to the recruiting aspects.
Those who have been around football for quite some time, especially on the NFL side of things, see this as a great hire.
“Herm is the perfect coach for ASU. I watched Pete (Carroll) bring my Trojans back to college football royalty after being gone from the college game forever. Herm will own the state of Arizona in recruiting. I can’t wait to help support his program just like I do for all of my friends that want to take on the world of college football,” Keyshawn Johnson said.
Johnson is a former USC Trojan and was the first pick in the 1996 draft. He spent 11 seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver before becoming a broadcaster for ESPN.
If this does turn out to be a major failure, many are questioning who will hold Anderson accountable for his extremely high expectations for the program? He set these expectations in the press conference following his dismissal of Graham.
The bottom line is, bringing Edwards to ASU is bringing ASU into the national spotlight once again. This is the most media attention ASU football has received in quite some time. This is exactly what Anderson wanted to do for the program; bring them back into the national conversation. Whether that conversation is good or bad, people are still talking about Arizona State.
It seems as if Anderson is already three steps ahead of everyone else when it comes to this coaching change, seeing things nobody else has been able to see. This is evident with how this move has brought the program to the center of the discussion.
One thing is certain, all eyes will be on Arizona State this year. People will be watching to see how the team does under Edwards, and if the move was fantastic or a flop. If the Sun Devils excel on the field next year, you can guarantee that the team’s thrust into the spotlight will help on every level possible.
Whether you loved Graham or hated him, his time is officially done. His contributions to the program will never be forgotten, as he has left a lasting impact on the program. The best thing to do now is get behind Edwards and continue to show support for the team.