Arizona State Fires Athletic Director; Sleeping Giant Status?

By Chris Hengst

Arizona State, whenever the football job opens, is perpetually referred to as a “sleeping giant.” The Sun Devils are one pink slip away from possibly fulfilling that moniker with today’s firing of athletic director, Lisa Love.

According the Arizona Republic, ASU president Michael Crow met with the former Vice President of Athletics to remove her title but the school’s press release termed her departure “leaving to pursue other opportunities.”

Whatever the procedural truth, Steve Patterson steps in to assume Love’s role, a chair he wasn’t too far away from as the Chief Operating Officer of Sun Devil Athletics.

With all due respect to Mr. Patterson, great athletic directors are rarely remembered for their own accomplishments. Patterson, like his colleagues nationally, are judged based on the records and championships won by the men and women they hire.

Lisa Love presided over seven national title teams in Tempe. But softball, women’s golf and men’s and women’s track field don’t pay the bills.

Football and men’s basketball generate the vast majority of revenue in athletic departments. So those two sports better be competitive to maintain fan interest, donations and an athletic director’s own job security.

Love hired Dennis Erickson in 2006 from Idaho. He was a recognizable name with NFL stops (San Francisco and Seattle) and extensive college success (Miami and Oregon State).

Erickson started his Sun Devils tenure strong, finishing 10-3 in 2007 but regressed in his last four seasons to post an overall record of 31-31 in Tempe.

Love then curiously chose Pitt’s Todd Graham as his replacement. I say curiously because I have no idea what the hell she was thinking.

Graham is a notorious job-hopper, he’d only been in Pittsburgh one year (and had previously done the same one-and-done at Rice) and that single season produced a middling, 6-6 record.

What sort of giants was she trying to wake?

In an off-season where Washington State hired Mike Leach and Arizona nabbed Rich Rodriguez, Graham was…underwhelming.

The school is in a BCS conference, an underrated recruiting state, home to students that look like this and devoid of a particularly maniacal fan base.

It’s one of the more frustrating conundrums to see Arizona State fail to challenge USC or Oregon in the Pac 12.

Steve Patterson can’t fire Todd Graham yet because he hasn’t coached a game. Perhaps the man who allowed Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris to run his offenses at Tulsa finds another coordinator diamond in the rough.

The Sun Devils are so close now though.

Love is out, Graham can’t be too far behind and then, maybe we’ll see Arizona State wake up from that eternal nap.

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