TEMPE, Ariz. – Head football coach Kenny Dillingham spoke to members of the media Monday afternoon where the first-year Sun Devil leader addressed the mindset of the program’s offseason recruiting as well as the culture that is on that horizon.
Ahead of the Pac-12 Football Media Day on Friday, Dillingham was adamant about the qualities that ASU is seeking in not only as a student-athlete and football player, but as a person to establish a culture. In a place that is so clearly special to Dillingham, the alumnus and Arizona native is set out to lay the groundwork for a program designed to help players that are passionate about football and the Sun Devil family.
“We’re going to recruit people who want to be here,” Dillingham said. “That’s the number one thing about our philosophy. There’s no tricks, there’s no gimmicks, there’s no promises.”
In the ever-changing world of college athletics, NIL deals have taken over the recruiting focus. The money involved with where an athlete chooses to study and play has not become the number one focus for many coaches and recruiting efforts alike, especially for NCAA football. But Dillingham’s priority above all has not wavered. The pitch to attract these athletes should not stand in the way of establishing a passionate football player.
“In the world of NIL, there’s zero NIL-talk — at all,” said Dillingham. “Because I want people who want to be here, I firmly believe (in) that. This is a special place, I have a passion for this place. When people walk into this building, they better have pride in it. They better have a passion about it.”
Dillingham spelt out the level of commitment that has been expected by a recruit and the expectations of that player once they arrive at ASU. The program that has its eyes set on a new philosophy expects the players to put in the work, and with the support from coaches, university members and fans, the student-athletes have the ability to thrive into productive football players and people in society.
“Anybody who comes to this program is going to have to work their butt off,” Dillingham said. “The level of success they have is not based off of what I do, it’s based off of what they do. So all we’re doing is giving them an opportunity to showcase themselves in a great place to live, with hopefully really good people around them coaching them to be successful in life. It’s their job to put in the work.”
The long tradition of gritty work from ASU football during the offseason will continue at Camp Tontozona this year as well. This will be the first time the team has returned since 2019, and the first time under coach Dillingham. Under ‘adverse conditions’ the team will be able to practice in a new environment, and more importantly be able to bond according to Dillingham.
Issues with the practicality and the actual facilities of ‘Camp T’ were answered by Dillingham himself, mentioning the sleeping, eating and restroom issues that have been tackled by the staff and team nutritionist.
“Part of this is to be uncomfortable,” said Dillingham. “Part of this is football’s not comfortable.”
The experience for the players will showcase their ability to handle some adversity and do it as a group, according to Dillingham.
‘Togetherness’ was the word Dillingahm used to describe the purpose of Camp T, and the bonding experience that makes Sun Devil football a family environment. Dillingham addressed the critical component of having a football team all on the same page and all united for the same goal, something that is invaluable to not only winning games, but creating a winning aura around a school’s football program that plays with passion.
Arizona State football will be in Payson, Ariz. at Camp Tontozona Aug. 10-12 with a practice open for public viewing on Saturday, Aug. 12.
In Dillingham’s first year, there’s many unknowns. A new roster, new staff and new energy around the program has yet to see any action in the sweltering heat of a hot, dry Saturday evening in the fall, but Dillingham is certain about the one element he is looking for in his 2023 roster.
“I just want them to play hard,” Dillingham said. “I want to watch the game and see guys caring and see guys playing with a passion.”