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Fake History: What if Arizona State hired Norm Chow to replace Dirk Koetter?

Because those who don't know their fake history are doomed to repeat it.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The butterfly effect is typically applied to situations involving weather and meteorological patterns, but it can also be used to concoct some pretty crazy alternate sports histories. In this edition, we take a look at what might have happened to the college football landscape if Arizona State had hired Norm Chow, a possible candidate at the time, instead of Dennis Erickson after the 2006 season.

Arizona State

After Dirk Koetter was fired in November of 2006, Sun Devil athletic director Lisa Love focused on three main candidates to take over as the head football coach. Dennis Erickson ended up getting the job, winning out over Mike Price and Norm Chow. A lot of people considered Chow (the Titans offensive coordinator at the time) to be the best choice, so we ask, what would have happened differently across the nation had he gotten the job in Tempe?


Newly hired head coach Rick Neuheisel is back in the college game and looks to the NFL to find an offensive coordinator. With Chow off the board, he calls up Seattle Seahawks assistant Kieth Gilbertson. Gilbertson served as OC under Neuheisel for four seasons at Washington, where the pair finished in the top two of the Pac-10 on three separate occasions.

Unfortunately, the combo does not work as well the second time. With no Marques Tuiasosopo type at quarterback, the Bruins struggle to find a leader on offense. Neuheisel is let go after 2011.


After being beaten out by Chow for the Arizona State job, Erickson finds his footing in Moscow and turns the Vandals into Boise State 2.0. A step forward in 2007 leads to a shocking 2008 campaign, where Idaho upsets Arizona in its season opener en route to an undefeated season. Erickson's efforts are rewarded with a trip to the Sugar Bowl, where the Vandals promptly knock off Alabama and finish the year ranked in the top five.

Meanwhile over in Seattle, Tyrone Willingham's Huskies just finished up their first 0-12 season in school history. With a Northwest guy like Erickson looking to make the move back up to a power conference, the choice is an easy one. Erickson bolts Idaho for Montlake.


Scared off by looming sanctions and wooed by Erickson, the Huskies flip the top quarterback prospect in the country from USC to Washington. Matt Barkley announces his decision on ESPNU's signing day special and angers Trojan fans when he puts on his purple hat and throws up the V for victory.

A tight quarterback competition follows in fall camp between Barkley and Jake Locker, and the true freshman ends up winning the job. An embarrassed Locker transfers and is never heard from again.


Instead of going through four coaches in six years, Todd Graham brings some stability to the Panthers. After a .500 season in 2011, Graham quickly starts to speak victory. He posts back-to-back 11 win seasons, giving Pittsburgh its best stretch since the days of Larry Fitzgerald.

Arizona State (Prologue)

Chow's initial seasons in Tempe are solid, with Top 25 finishes in each of his first three years. However, a couple of less than stellar recruiting classes followed, and the maroon and gold struggled to keep up with the evolving Pac-12. A 6-6 record in 2011 had fans getting antsy, and Chow decided to head back to Los Angeles to take the opening at UCLA.

Now tasked to find a second football coach in five years, Love was determined to hire a big name. After losing out on Urban Meyer to Ohio State and Mike Leach to Washington State, she decides to target yet another coach that has been away from the sidelines for awhile.

Eager to get back into coaching, ESPN's Bob Davie jumps at the opportunity and becomes Arizona State's 23rd head football coach. A relieved Love is able to end the search and scratch out the next man on her list, an up and coming coach who just posted a 6-6 record in his first season at Pittsburgh.