It’s not every day you see a coach of a major collegiate sport walking around campus, let alone on any of ASU’s.
This week, football coach Todd Graham and several players scheduled visits to the Downtown, West and Polytechnic campuses for hour long meet-and-greet sessions with students.
Since Graham’s introduction to the team, he has breathed new life into a program that was on the verge of slipping into irrelevance. This three-campus tour is a step in the right direction for the ASU football program and could be a sign of greater things to come down the line.
The way Graham is reaching out to students and fans on a more personal level than previously seen from ASU coaches is encouraging and provides a boost of confidence to fans uncertain of what the future holds for the team.
That’s not to say Dennis Erickson wasn’t a personable guy. He was always good with the media and was courteous when taking questions after any game, including tough losses. Basketball coach Herb Sendek has also been seen briefly shaking hands and greeting students in the stands at football games. However, these instances are limited.
It is the way Graham decided to embark on this multi-campus journey that makes him special. No football coach, in recent memory, has made a point to visit students, let alone those on the West, Polytechnic and Downtown campuses. It is rare for a high-profile figure at ASU to hold a luncheon simply to say he is excited to be a part of the program and cultivate relationships with its fans.
Graham is certainly saying all the right things in his short time here at ASU. In his initial news conference, Graham said he wanted to shake thousands of hands and make his presence felt in the community.
It is apparent he is dedicated to creating a more personal, more marketable team.
Yet, behind the niceties and smiles, he remains focused on bringing his product on the field to the highest level he can. This is more than just lip service and rites of passage. Graham appears to be exactly what ASU needs, and he is committed to maintaining that image.
Yet, whether this rise in public appearances will equate to fans filling Sun Devil Stadium for each home game remains a disappointingly unanswered question.
How can we, as students and fans, not support Graham and the football program?
Yes, last season was disappointing. High hopes and expectations led to crushed realities when the team began to underperform. Still, there is a huge difference between an apathetic fan base that leisurely attends games when there’s not a better party happening, and a passionate one, where each game is an event worthy of taking up an entire Saturday night.
Todd Graham is laying the foundation for the latter. We just have to build upon it.