Let me get this out of the way right now. Five minutes from the time this article is published, everything will have changed, and ASU will be the leader for the top contender for the hot candidate.
And five minutes after that, it will be back to the this.
Lisa Love, ASU's athletic director, was in New York City today to speak with Southern Mississippi's Larry Fedora and Houston's Kevin Sumlin, the presumptive top two candidates, with a meeting with Baylor's Art Briles targeted for later in the week. This came after the Sun Devils "paused" their pursuit of SMU's June Jones after significant booster backlash, which in turn led to Jones announcing to his SMU staff that he would return.
However, North Carolina seems to be on the verge of hiring Fedora, which would then place Sumlin firmly in the crosshairs of Texas A&M...except that the Aggies are also hot for Air Force's Troy Calhoun (apparently an ASU fallback option) and Louisville's Charlie Strong. In addition, new reports now indicate that Sumlin is a leading candidate at Illinois.
All of this apparently has scared the Sun Devils enough to rethink their move on Jones, as tweeted by ASUDevils.com.
Got all that?
Such developments, rumors, hearsay and misinformation is to be expected with any coaching search, but digging deeper there is an underlying trend that is far more disturbing than losing out on a top coach.
Last week, it was well known that Sumlin was ASU's top target. His resume, potential, ties to Noel Mazzone and reported love of the area made him the ideal fit. It was just a matter of waiting until after the Conference USA title game to get him to sign.
Then Texas A&M fired Mike Sherman and threw its hat into the Sumlin ring. Did ASU dig down deeper and stiffen their resolve?
No, they canceled their plane tickets and called Jones, a coach with no other BCS conference teams pursuing him.
What happened after it became probable that UNC would nab Fedora and Sumlin would again return to the top of A&M's wish list?
"Coach Jones, there's a Lisa Love on line one for you."
Now, of course any enterprise should have contingency plans in place. Jones appears to be one of ASU's preferred fallbacks, along with Air Force's Calhoun and Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. Ultimately, it may turn out that's what this was.
Fortune favors the bold. There is still time for ASU to strike aggressively and get their man.
But with each passing hour and every new report from "sources", the picture is coming into focus: ASU is not willing to make the moves required to be a national power. They get intimidated when thrust into competition and revert to Plan B, C and D as soon as a competitor enters in on Plan A. It's as if their on-field November performance has bled into their coaching search.
They need the ABC attitude - Always Be Closing. So far, they're holding to the usual ASU - Always Settle for Underwhelming.
That's something that doesn't seem likely to change in five minutes, months or years.
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