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Todd Graham, Year One: It's Not Whether You Win Or Lose...

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You remember it, don't you?

It was just last summer, and it arrived right on schedule: the annual optimism parade that surrounds Sun Devil football heading into a new season. However, the Summer 2011 edition was a little different. This time, there seemed to be reason to substantiate those sentiments. From the schedule to returning starters to a bold new look, it was time.

As it turned out, it was not time. Well, at least when it counted most, and what ensued in the wake of the season-ending five-game losing streak has been rehashed enough to make a revisiting unnecessary.

Fast forward six months and, sure enough, optimism is here again.

So far, head coach Todd Graham has exceeded all expectations. His infectious attitude has both players and fans "speaking victory". He's made major strides with the local media, students and boosters alike. The recent successes on the recruiting trail continue a remarkable positive momentum generated by Graham and his staff.

But any listing of those tremendous accomplishments do come with the requisite "Yeah, but...". In this case "...he has yet to coach a game at ASU".

A fair point. At the end of the day and contract, it's the wins and losses that count. Shaking hands, raising money and taking the team to Camp T are great, but if that doesn't turn the program into a winner, then it's all for naught.

Except this year.

In 2012, success should not be measured by how many games the Sun Devils win.

The mess that Graham inherited in Tempe can not be overstated. The program was in shambles. After five years under Dennis Erickson, the culture of Sun Devil football had become toxic. Discipline was non-existent. Work ethic had checked out long ago. Sun Devil Pride had given way to apathy, both on the field and in the stands.

Being behind the eight ball would have been an envious position by comparison.

So before becoming a consistent winner can become a plausible reality, a complete overhaul of the foundation, apex and everything in between for the program must occur.

As stated earlier, a lot of progress had made. By and large, the players have bought in to his system. Fan faith has been largely restored--or at least the pitchforks and torches have been put away. But there is a lot of work to go. A lot.

The optimism generated thus far has fans, as fans tend to do, thinking big. Predictions of bowl games abound. Six, seven, eight and more wins have been made with great frequency.

Thinking objectively, the Sun Devils have the makings of a four to six win team this fall. The team suffered the loss of several key players, and the schedule is anything but kind. With some breaks either way, that number could rise or fall a bit. But for now, for this 2012 season, the final number in the "W" column will not tell the true tale of whether Year 1 of the Graham Era was a success.

It will come in how the team plays. It will come from the discipline shown on and off the field. It will come from how well the team adopts and masters new offensive and defensive schemes. It will come in the improvement shown from Week 1 to the Territorial Cup battle in Tucson.

This year--and this year alone--is not about winning. It's about laying the foundation for program that honors the best of ASU's celebrated past while forging their own path for sustained success in the future.

"it's time" for the Sun Devil Way to return.

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