An ASU Rewind: A look back at the 2017-18 athletic season

The 2017-18 ASU athletic season was one to remember

The 2017-18 athletic season at ASU was one that was full of memories. 

From all-time highs to some historic lows, from fired coaches to new arenas, the year was one to remember in Athletic Director Ray Anderson’s fourth year at the university.

“We have a culture of 'all sports matter,' in that they are critically important to the goals and aspirations for us to build leaders out of Sun Devils Athletics," said Anderson in an interview with the State Press earlier this year. “It's a combination of having some real fine student-athletes and some very strong leadership.” 

The beginning of the 2017-18 athletic year was highlighted by a whirlwind of a season for ASU football. 

ASU went 7-6, defeated a top-five opponent, beat their in-state rival, and received a bid to a bowl game.

There were also low points, such as when the team received pivotal losses at home to USC and San Diego State, and road losses at UCLA and Stanford in Pac-12 play.

All of those efforts thrown together led to the firing of former head coach Todd Graham at a peculiar time — just after ASU dethroned Arizona to claim the Territorial Cup on Nov. 25.

The firing led to some outroar from ASU fans, while others didn’t mind the decision. But what it did create was a mad scramble for a new coach, and Anderson arrived at a verdict when he hired someone he used to represent as an agent — Herm Edwards.

This upcoming season will be Edwards’ first as a collegiate head coach.

“Some people question, ‘Well you haven’t coached in a long time. You haven’t been on the field,’” said Edwards in his introductory press conference in December. “I have been coaching football my whole life, and that’s why I am here today, because of the vision (of the program).”

Following the football season, ASU hoops took center stage. In a season with little to no expectations, the men’s team ascended to as high as No. 3 in the nation under head coach Bobby Hurley.

A rocky conference slate led to a nerve-racking Selection Sunday for the Sun Devils, but they reached the Big Dance. 

The team fell in its First Four game against Syracuse, but the year was ultimately looked back upon as a success.

“I think we set the tone with what we want to do and how we want to compete here (in future years),” said Hurley as he spoke to the media this past week. “We put ourselves in a position to play in the postseason, to play in the NCAA tournament, and I think the experience of that was very valuable.”

On the women’s side, the ASU’s women’s basketball team was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

However, next year’s team will include every player (minus junior guard Sabrina Haines, who transferred to Kentucky) from the past year’s roster, and the group of returning talent will only look to grow under veteran head coach Charli Turner Thorne.

Aside from basketball and football, ASU’s reinstated men’s tennis team competed in a match for the first time since 2008, and women’s lacrosse took the field for its inaugural season.

Off the playing surfaces, the university also came forth with a big announcement.

In late January, ASU announced its plan for stadium renovations to Wells Fargo Arena. Along with the restructuring of the facility, the plans revealed an adjacent sports complex that will house men’s hockey, wrestling and gymnastics. The plan was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents, and the facilities hope to be ready for the 2020-21 season.

On the diamond, ASU’s baseball and softball teams had polar opposite seasons.

ASU’s softball program reached the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2013, head coach Trisha Ford was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and multiple Sun Devils obtained all-conference and national honors.

In complete contrast, the ASU baseball team recorded back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in school history, leading to an end of the year press conference to discuss head coach Tracy Smith’s future.

With some moans and groans from a fan base that has been accustomed to seeing a national powerhouse in Tempe over the years, Anderson announced that the university would be retaining Smith for next season.

ASU played with a core group of Smith’s highly-talented freshman recruits, including freshman phenom Spencer Torkelson, but the results on the scoreboard left the Sun Devils skipper searching for answers at times throughout the season.

Regardless of what happens next year, one thing is certain: Smith will be monitored, and with a talented group of athletes who to Smith’s credit, he recruited, the 2019 campaign will be vital to the head coach’s foreseeable future.

“We expect and anticipate significant improvement,” said Anderson at his end of the year press conference.

While the baseball season came to a jagged finish, the 2018 spring athletic season ended on a high note — with ASU track and field star Maggie Ewen winning both a discus and shot put crown at the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships.

Ewen’s list of accolades at ASU run on and on, varying from records to awards, but she will now ride off into the sunset in Tempe as she competes to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. 

With Ewen closing out a memorable year in ASU athletics, who knows what else will be in store for next season. Only time, and a couple of months without sports on campus, will tell. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @AndrewBell7 on Twitter.

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