TEMPE - Kenny Dillingham, straight-faced in a suit and maroon tie, sat quietly through long introductions from Michael Crow and Ray Anderson in the San Tan Ford Club in Sun Devil Stadium on Sunday morning.
After a round of applause, it was Dillingham’s turn on the mic. It took just two words before his voice quivered, expressing a spectrum of emotions that were barely noticed in the preceding moments.
The former-Sun Devil offensive-assistant and Chaparral High School-alum was officially announced as Arizona State’s new head football coach on Sunday. At 32-years-old, Dillingham is the youngest head coach in the Power-Five conferences.
“The one you’re going to get from me (is that) I am who I am,” Dillingham said. “I’m going to be the same person every single day when I show up to work. I’m fired-up to be here, fired-up to be a Sun Devil.”
Kenny Dillingham on what his first priority is as head coach of Arizona State. pic.twitter.com/omPrXMvYTF— State of the Sun Devils (@AZSportsDevils) November 27, 2022
Dillingham spent the last year as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oregon after stints in the same role at Auburn, and then Florida State under Mike Norvell. Dillingham worked as an offensive assistant at ASU when Norvell served as offensive coordinator in Tempe.
On top of a plethora of one-liners, shows of appreciation and plenty of tears (which, in-full, can be found here), the press conference cleared-up some questions about the transition, while others remain unanswered. The most pressing issue? The employment status of former interim head coach Shaun Aguano.
Dillingham was tending to another question when he stopped abruptly, turning a new question on the reporter:
“Can you ask me another question? Can you ask me if we’re retaining Shaun Aguano?,” Dillingham said.
“Are you retaining Shaun Aguano?,” the reporter asked.
“Yes, we’re retaining Shaun Aguano.”
“Can you ask me if we’re retaining Shaun Aguano?”— PHNX Sun Devils (@PHNX_SunDevils) November 27, 2022
“Yes, we are retaining Shaun Aguano!” pic.twitter.com/vkkM86je1k
Aguano’s role is currently unknown, as are the identities of Dillingham’s coordinators and the rest of his staff. Some speculate Dillingham may appoint Aguano to a recruiting-role, potentially with a focus on in-state efforts. Dillingham also mentioned that Aguano, who beamed with joy amid the crowd, will be essential in retaining players from the 2022 roster.
To add to the dramatic flare, ASU booster Nap Lawrence pledged $1 million to the Sun Angel Collective, ASU’s NIL-bank, in an effort to inspire other donors.
“We’re ready (to compete in the NIL race) when everybody is ready,” Dillingham said. “We need everybody. It can’t be ‘Oh that’s good, we just got $1 million.’ That’s unbelievable right there. Where else is it coming from?
“It’s getting the Valley all-in. If we get the Valley all-in, the sky is the limit,” he said.
Anderson also took time to thoroughly explain the search-process, which he said began months ago after Herm Edwards’s departure. According to Anderson, ASU utilized the Korn Ferry search-firm, while including committees of associate athletic directors, and select ASU Football alumni, that offered insights on candidates. He says that the Dillingham selection was the “unanimous and and exciting decision” among those “internal groups.”
Anderson also mentioned that ASU would not release the names of the other coaching candidates, citing their privacy.
Other topics included: a heavy-emphasis on recruiting homegrown Arizona talent, more NIL-talk (which was echoed by Anderson and Crow), attention to the small details in coaching and that ASU will attack the transfer portal while they manage damage-control on the next two recruiting classes.
We will leave this here. #PT42 pic.twitter.com/3IT8D0dx6W— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) November 27, 2022
In the meantime, Dillingham will meet with the ASU players and assemble his coaching staff. This will be a developing story for weeks to come.