ASU athletics to benefit from culture shock in the long run

It’s hard to look at the accomplishments of the ASU football and basketball teams this past season and not label them a collective success.

It would be foolish not to commend career years from seniors Marion Grice and Jordan Bachynski in their respective sports.

But ultimately, sports at this level are about producing, and winning. Yes, lots of schools have bigger budgets and more recruiting appeal. It doesn’t justify subpar performance at any point, not if ASU wants to be the program it’s aspiring to be.

At a majority of NCAA Division I schools, football rules the day, and rightfully so: Football is the primary source of revenue for most athletic departments and therefore gets the most media buzz.

In this case, it’s only fair to look holistically at a season where softball and baseball underperformed, and track and field is racing at nationals, as ASU is just one of six teams in the country to send six individual athletes and four relay teams to Eugene, Oregon, for the competition. We can’t make generalizations about the athletic department from one team.

Significant personnel losses will set the Sun Devils back next season, that much we know. The Pac-12 South will only become more difficult. With UCLA a constant threat and USC looking to return to its glory days under the leadership of Steve Sarkisian, each week will be a dogfight.

Don’t count me among those who claim that this season was a fluke. It wasn’t. It also doesn’t mean that ASU should be content with where it stands.

Our neighbors to the north in Oregon and Washington will surely look to challenge the Cardinal as the class of the conference.

On the hardwood, a conference-wide talent drain that will funnel into the NBA Draft leaves ASU without Bachynski, Jahii Carson, and Jermaine Marshall in 2014-15.

President Michael Crow insisted that ASU would not enter an “arms race” of exorbitant athletic spending.

That’s fine. Just spare us the excuses about who we aren’t: Alabama, Notre Dame, Texas, USC, the New York Yankees or Manchester United — and form an identity that translates into a legacy of Sun Devil athletics. The goals discussed in last week’s editorial, if collectively met, could lead to recognition at that level. ASU is blessed with a chance to become an iconic influence on a new generation of college sports.

Construction on Sun Devil Stadium is going smoothly after a three-month delay, and the “Momentum” campaign could provide an influx in recruiting now and in the near future.

Baseball got a fresh start, with a new facility and soon a new coach, truly a microcosm of the entire athletic department that has begun anew since Anderson began his duties in February.

Championships won’t be brought to Tempe overnight. Expectations are high, and will only get higher as teams reach or exceed them — try asking the Chicago Blackhawks if they’re content with finishing the year in the Western Conference Finals.

Anderson’s long-term vision eventually places the Sun Devils amongst the elite juggernauts of today’s NCAA. Given his track record and the moves he has made merely in the infancy of his tenure, I believe that for even the most impatient ASU fans, it will be one that is worth seeing through.

 

Reach the assistant sports editor at smodrich@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @modrich_22