Football needs long-lasting coach to build dynasty

There’s a popular line from “The Sandlot” that Babe Ruth gives as advice to Benny Rodriguez the night before Benny takes on the beast.

To be honest, the scene with the Great Bambino is completely out of place with the rest of the movie. And Benny’s lack of emotion when an unknown man walks out of his closet makes it even more surreal.

In any case, just as the Babe is about to leave, he says, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

In college football, players can be heroes, forever remembered for their last-second comebacks (Doug Flutie) or deadly efficiency (Reggie Bush).

Soon, however, those players move on the NFL or fade into obscurity, and a new group of recruits rises up to take their place.

It’s the coaches that live forever. Bo Schembechler at Michigan. Bobby Bowden at Florida State. Bear Bryant at Alabama. ASU had Frank Kush.

Look at the way Joe Paterno was treated before the scandal broke. Penn State had a couple poor seasons, but neither the students nor the players cared. They had Joe, a symbol of everything Penn State stood for.

Even after everything broke out, they still rallied around Paterno, at least at first. He meant that much to the students.

If ASU truly intends to build a dynasty in Tempe, what it needs is a lifer, a coach who willing to stick around for decades and dedicate everything to the school.

In short, everything that Dennis Erickson wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. When Erickson was hired, he was everything that ASU wanted. The school knew they had a strong team and a shot at a national title if they played the cards right.

Erickson had a ring, had the experience, and knew how to start working with a team right away.

Things just didn’t work out.

At the same time, Erickson was 59 years old when he was hired, and had already worked for seven different college and pro teams when he arrived at ASU. There had been talk of his retirement before he came to Tempe. And although he was ultimately signed to a five-year deal, no one really expected him to be in for the long haul.

Teams in the SEC do so well because football is as close to an established religion as you can get. The recruiting lines run deep and fans give their coaches almost god-like status because they feel like they know them personally, even if they’ve never met them before.

Changing coaches every five or six years prevents all this from happening. Starting off as a new coach is a daunting task. You have to pick up the pieces from the old recruiting system and cobble together something new. You have to earn the trust of a distrustful fan base. And you have to establish your philosophy with a team that’s used to something completely different.

Lisa Love has said the university will be aggressive during the search for a new coach.

They also need to look for someone young, someone who will care about the university and the fan base, and most of all, someone who they can stand for the next 10-20 years.

It’ll take a while, but if ASU can find a coach that fits the bill, they can establish a dynasty in the Valley of the Sun.

You just have to know exactly what you want.

 

Reach the columnist at egrasser@asu.edu
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