ASU investing in Mike Norvell, future

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
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Programs aren’t made in a year. They aren't made in two, or even three, years. It takes time. And most importantly, it takes continuity.

Of the many promises Todd Graham has made since coming to Arizona State, one of the signature commitments was that he was going to build the Sun Devils into a competitive program.

To do that, you need consistency. And he and the ASU decision makers took a major step forward toward that consistency on Wednesday when they promoted offensive coordinator Mike Norvell to deputy head coach.

[+] EnlargeGraham/Norvell
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinArizona State's promotion of offensive coordinator Mike Norvell (left) to deputy head coach shows how committed it is to keeping Norvell and head coach Todd Graham (right) together.
It’s a nice title bump and a nice raise. But more importantly, it hitches Norvell’s wagon to Graham’s for at least another year and shows that ASU is serious about being a national player.

If you’re not familiar with Norvell, you should be. The rest of the college coaching community certainly is.

It was just last year that Norvell turned down an offer from new Auburn coach Gus Malzhan to be his offensive coordinator. The move would have nearly doubled Norvell’s salary. He politely declined.

Norvell is too humble to talk about the schools that have approached him. But according to a source close to the team, he’s been approached by Florida, Notre Dame and “pretty much every team in the country that needs an OC,” since the end of the regular season. He was also reportedly linked to the head coaching job at Arkansas State. Again, Norvell politely declined.

“Obviously his goal is to be a head football coach,” said Graham, speaking in San Diego Wednesday night at a media event for the National University Holiday Bowl. “That’s the only thing we want to lose him to is a head coaching job. He had some offers from some Division I schools to be a head coach which he declined and he stayed committed to us. We’re awfully thrilled to have him.”

But Norvell doesn’t look at it as passing up other opportunities. For him, it’s simply continuing on the path he started years ago with Graham.

“He’s someone I believe in,” Norvell said Wednesday night via phone. “I have a great deal of respect for him. Getting a chance to come to work every day for someone who has a tremendous vision and a way of treating our players and the highest expectations to be the best we can be is something I take a great deal of pride in. The university have made a tremendous commitment to me and I think we have something special happening in Tempe and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

At age 32, Norvell one of the hottest, most sought-after offensive minds in the country. And he’s fiercely loyal to Graham, whose coaching tree includes Malzhan, Chad Morris, Major Applewhite and Bill Blankenship, among others.

“I like growing my own,” Graham said. “The university has made a long-term commitment to me and, in turn, my staff. I’ve hired great people. I gave Mike his first job and he’s been with me ever since. He’s like family to me and he does a tremendous job. It’s nice to work at a university that is willing to reward that.”

When Graham, Norvell et. al announced before the 2012 season that Taylor Kelly was going to be their starting quarterback, a lot of eyebrows shot north. Public opinion was that physical specimen Michael Eubank should be the guy. But Graham said to wait and see what Kelly was capable of once Norvell got ahold of him. The end result is an offense that has totaled more than 12,000 yards and more than 1,000 points in two years with Norvell as offensive coordinator.

Since the start of the 2012 season the Sun Devils have averaged 39.7 points per game -- 11th nationally and second in the Pac-12 only to Oregon’s 48.2.

How big of a deal is this? The university president, Dr. Michael Crow, made a statement in the press release ASU sent out yesterday. School presidents don’t make comments about assistant coaches.

“I am committed to the long-term success of this program under the leadership of Todd Graham,” Crow said. “Rewarding the skills of a master teacher like Mike Norvell is a demonstration of that commitment. Coach Norvell’s performance as offensive coordinator has been nationally recognized, and this promotion reflects the remarkable track record he has established in the last two years at ASU.”

That sounds like something you’d hear from the head coach. It’s a not-so-subtle way of saying we want to keep Graham and his staff happy. And a happy staff is a productive staff.

“In two years, we’ve gotten on the doorstep of our goals,” Norvell said. “To be able to grow and get to where we want to, you need that continuity. It’s great that Coach Graham has that trust in me and the university has that trust in me to do my job and do it at a high level. It’s nice knowing I’ve got that support.”

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