The world of college sports is cyclical in nature.
Every four years, players are cycled through, with programs having to build on any success quickly or it will miss its chance.
But that feels especially true when it comes to the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Since ASU’s last Rose Bowl appearance in 1996, four coaches have helmed the program. All finished their tenure in Tempe winning at least half of their games and all have watched from the sideline weeks after being fired as their team lost a bowl game.
Bruce Snyder lost the 2000 Aloha Bowl by two touchdowns and Dirk Koetter was cut down by Colt Brennan and Hawai’i by 17 points on the same field in 2006. In 2011, Dennis Erickson ended his time at ASU with a 32-point loss to No. 7 Boise State while the newly-hired Todd Graham watched from above.
And Friday in El Paso, Graham added his name to the list with a 21-point loss to the No. 24 N.C. State Wolfpack 52-31, sending him out on the same low note as each of his predecessors.
His legacy in Tempe goes beyond either Koetter or Erickson, and maybe even Snyder, but in the immediate aftermath, they all look the same. All walking away from the Sun Devils leaving more questions than answers.
And this is where I begin to understand the purpose of the New Leadership Model and the hiring of Herm Edwards.
No matter which way ASU has gone with hiring coaches over the last 20 years, the end result has been the same: a fired coach walking off the field with one last loss saddled to his record.
Whether it be a national champion or an up-and-comer, none have established consistent success at a Pac-12 or national level, something that has evaded ASU’s grasp while seeing those around them achieve such heights.
Don’t get this twisted, I don’t believe Graham deserved to be let go, especially considering the strides he’s made with the program during his tenure. But there’s a time for everything, and at Arizona State, the clock seems to strike after six years.
While Graham’s expiration date as a successful coach may be well in the future, he didn’t build on the lofty expectations he set for himself following the 2014 season and it led to his downfall.
Now, it’s Ray Anderson who set the lofty expectations for the next regime. A top-15 program. Four and five-star recruits flooding to Tempe. Pac-12 championships. All of this is now what fans should expect in the new era of Sun Devil football, according to the administration.
It remains to be seen whether Herm Edwards will break the streak of coaches flaming out after a half-decade, but, at this point, what has ASU got to lose?