NCF Nation: Bruce Snyder
But each Arizona State surge was followed by mediocrity and losing seasons. Since Kush was controversially forced out in 1979, the only thing that has been consistent about Sun Devils football has been inconsistency.
That's why the Sun Devils’ rise under Todd Graham should be approached cautiously. While there's plenty of evidence suggesting a cultural transformation, unfettered optimism has been a dangerous state of mind for Sun Devil fans.
How about just the facts? Graham took over a team that went 6-7 in 2011 and went 8-5 his first season. In his second, he has the Sun Devils at 10-2, ranked 11th and facing No. 7 Stanford on Saturday for the Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl berth .
Arizona State had been a notoriously undisciplined program. In 2011, the Sun Devils ranked last in the nation in penalty yards per game. Last year, they ranked eighth in the nation, and this year they rank third.
The discipline has extended off the field. The Sun Devils have been mostly avoiding the police blotter and doing well in the classroom, see nine players earning Pac-12 All-Academic honors, the program's most since 2006.
"We've always lacked consistency," said running back D.J. Foster, a Scottsdale native. "Even before I came here, just watching stuff. I feel like this program finally has constancy with Coach Graham. His work ethic is rubbing off on the players."
Graham said that even before he took the Arizona State job he had talked to other coaches about the football program's potential, most notably Cooper, who bolted Tempe for Ohio State after going 7-4-1 in 1987. Cooper is the last Sun Devils coach whose tenure didn't end with a pink slip. Graham, who has notoriously called multiple places his "dream job," wasn't worried about the dreaded "sleeping giant" label, which typically became a subject for off-the-record derision among former Sun Devils coaches.
"I think it just points to the potential," Graham said. "This is a great place."
There was an outside perception that the team Graham took over didn't lack athletic ability but that it might be thin on character. Fair or unfair, the Sun Devils have long been dogged by a reputation as a self-centered team that lacked mental toughness. But what Graham says he found was a locker room eager to embrace change.
"I think they were somewhat tired of some of the discipline things," Graham said. "I believe young people will meet whatever standard you set."
Want buy-in? Two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton on Monday was finishing up a 15-page paper on leadership. Guess who it was about: Graham.
"It's about leadership and change in the community, and what better person to do than Coach Graham?" Sutton explained.
For Graham, however, the message that he advanced this season compared to last is players taking charge of leadership instead of the coaches. That's part of a team and a program maturing.
"Our players are leading the team," he said.
The improvement this fall has been impressive. The Sun Devils are 10-2 against one of the nation's toughest schedules and they are riding a Pac-12-best seven-game winning streak. While Stanford is the defending conference champion, it's the Sun Devils who are favored.
"This has been the best situation I've ever been in in coaching," Graham said. "We've really gelled really quickly. We had a great plan and we really fit the place. I think the players were really hungry for what we've brought."
If the Sun Devils keep winning, it certainly will bolster efforts to renovate Sun Devil Stadium, a project that is critical to the program remaining competitive. And retaining Graham.
While the previously nomadic Graham seems to -- finally -- be content, leading Arizona State to a Rose Bowl will refocus the nation on his program building skills, not his controversial departures from previous schools. Keeping him and his coaching staff happy will be an important test for the athletic department, which already is replacing athletic director Steve Patterson, who left for Texas this fall.
Further, everyone knows nothing big has been accomplished yet. This is about establishing a consistent winner, not just breaking through every five or 10 years for a magical run. It's no good if the sleeping giant just got up to grab a glass of warm milk before again retiring.
"I feel the sleeping giant is awoken but we've still got a lot more work to do and a lot more big games to win to be established as a dominant program," Foster said.
Of course, these situations vary greatly in terms of circumstances and reaction. There aren't many college football jobs out there considered better than one in the Pac-12, so most of the coaches who bailed out on their programs left for the NFL.
But here is a sampling from the Pac-12. Feel free to provide your own thoughts below.
- California got dogged twice. First, after going 10-2 in 1991, Bruce Snyder bailed on the Golden Bears for Arizona State. It's rare for a coach to jump from one conference program to another, and it certainly hurts more. Then, in 1996, Steve Mariucci lasted just one year in Berkeley before jumping aboard with the San Francisco 49ers.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Don RyanPete Carroll stunned USC fans when he left after the 2009 season to coach the Seattle Seahawks.
- Dennis Erickson twice left Pac-12 teams for sunnier pastures (at least in theory). After two years at Washington State, Erickson bolted for Miami after the 1988 season. Then, after a strong run at Oregon State from 1999-2002, Erickson left Corvallis for the San Francisco 49ers. He has repeatedly said that was the worst move of his career.
- Dick Vermeil lasted two seasons at UCLA. After going 9-2-1 in 1975 and upsetting No. 1 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, he left for the Philadelphia Eagles.
- Rick Neuheisel shocked many when he left Colorado for Washington before the 1999 season for a million-dollar contract, which was at the time considered exorbitant. He left behind NCAA sanctions for the Buffaloes and immediately got into trouble with the Huskies. It didn't make folks in Boulder feel any better when the Huskies and Neuheisel swept a home-and-home series over the next two years.
But two departures really stand out.
Don James is on the short list of greatest college football coaches of all time. In 18 seasons at Washington, from 1975 to 1992, he won a national title and four Rose Bowls. He went 153-57-2 (.726) and set a then-record of 98 conference victories. From 1990-92, the Huskies won 22 consecutive games.
He is the Dawgfather.
And that's why many Huskies fans will tell you the lowest moment in program history is when he resigned in protest of NCAA and Pac-12 sanctions on Aug. 22, 1993. (James really, really didn't like Washington president William Gerberding and athletic director Barbara Hedges, either).
His resignation just before the season forced Washington to promote defensive coordinator Jim Lambright, a good man and a good defensive coordinator but not an ideal fit as head coach. Other than a Rose Bowl victory after the 2000 season under Rick Neuheisel, things have never been the same in Husky Stadium. Not yet, at least.
A more recent shocker: Pete Carroll bolting USC after the 2009 season for the Seattle Seahawks.
Carroll's hiring in 2001 was widely panned, but all he did thereafter was build a college football dynasty, winning national championships in 2003 and 2004 and falling just short of a third consecutive title in 2005 in a thrilling loss to Texas. He went 97-19 (.836) in nine seasons (11-2 versus rivals Notre Dame and UCLA), won six BCS bowl games and finished ranked in the AP top-four seven times. He won 34 consecutive games from 2003-05 and coached three Heisman Trophy winners and 25 first-team All-Americans.
So, yeah, he accomplished a lot. And many thought he would coach USC for life, though many others also suspected the lure of the NFL would prove too much.
It was the timing of his sudden, stunning departure that frustrated many Trojans fans. While Carroll has repeatedly denied oncoming NCAA sanctions had anything to do with his decision to leave, that's a hard line to buy. He skipped town after a 9-4 season that featured blowout losses to Stanford and Oregon and left behind a team with a two-year bowl ban and deficit of 30 scholarships over three seasons.
Still, not unlike how James is viewed by Huskies fans, Carroll is mostly spared the wrath of Trojans fans because of what he accomplished.
There's no question, however, that both programs were left in the lurch.
So Oregon coach Chip Kelly, by the same standards, is now a "consensus" Coach of the Year, after winning the honor from the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Kelly is the first Oregon coach and just the third from the Pac-10 to earn the award (Arizona State’s Frank Kush in 1975 and Bruce Snyder in 1996), which is voted on by FBS coaches and sports information directors.
Kelly previously won Coach of the Year honors from the Football Writers Association of America and The Sporting News.
Under Kelly’s direction, the second-ranked and Pac-10 champion Ducks (12-0) earned their first BCS Bowl Championship Game appearance and will meet No. 1 Auburn (13-0) on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz. It is Oregon’s first 12-win season in its history.
Kelly, along with members of the 2010 Walter Camp All-America team, will be honored at the organization’s national awards banquet on Jan. 15 at the Yale University Commons in New Haven.
And we made the executive decision not to make this a list of USC upset losses -- other than the biggest one of those.
10. Oregon 56, Arizona State 55 (2 OT), 2000: Many of you are drawing a blank, but the ones who saw this one are jumping out of their chairs and going, "Oh man. That one was nuts." Both teams scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. The teams combined for 1,228 yards, 663 of those for the Sun Devils. Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington threw six -- SIX! -- touchdown passes, including three in the fourth quarter, the last of which tied the score with 27 seconds left after the Sun Devils gave away a critical fumble. Arizona State freshman QB Jeff Krohn threw five TD passes, by the way. ASU lost the game when coach Bruce Snyder decided to fake the extra point and go for the two-point conversion in the second overtime. It failed, leaving fans in Tempe stunned.
9. Washington State 30, USC 27 (OT), 2002: Any of you Cougars fans able to muster the memory of kicker Drew Dunning's slide on his knees at Martin Stadium? Dunning sent the game into overtime with a 35-yard field goal and then made the game-winner from the same distance in a victory that was critical to the Cougars' run to the Rose Bowl. The game featured a brilliant quarterback duel between Carson Palmer and Jason Gesser -- Gesser passed for 315 yards, Palmer for 381 -- and a dominant performance from Cougars defensive tackle Rien Long, who went on to win the Outland Trophy. Between this game and the 2006 Rose Bowl, USC lost just once.
8. Oregon 44, Arizona 41 (2 OT), 2009: If Arizona had won this game, we now know the Wildcats would have played in their first Rose Bowl. The Wildcats led 24-14 early in the fourth quarter, but then the game went crazy. With red-clad Arizona fans encircling the field, Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli tied the game in regulation with six seconds left with a touchdown pass to Ed Dickson. Masoli then won it in the second overtime with a 1-yard run. Masoli ran for three TDs and passed for three more.
7. Stanford 24, USC 23, 2007: Greatest upset in Pac-10 history? Maybe. Stanford was a 41-point underdog playing its backup quarterback at No. 2 USC, which had won 35 in a row at home. But Trojans quarterback John David Booty, who foolishly played -- and was allowed to play -- with an injured throwing hand, threw four interceptions, while Stanford's Tavita Pritchard led a clutch, game-winning drive, throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bradford on fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds remaining.
6. Oregon 37, Oregon State 33, 2009: It was the Civil War for the Roses, with the Ducks earning a berth in the Rose Bowl. While the return of Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount was significant -- he scored a critical touchdown -- the game belonged to redshirt freshman running back LaMichael James, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 166 yards, and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who ran over Beavers safety Lance Mitchell to convert a fourth-and-3 play from the Beavers' 33 with 3:41 left, as Oregon ran out the final six minutes with its final drive.
5. California 31, Oregon 24, 2007: Sixth-ranked California, featuring a stellar performance from receiver DeSean Jackson, outlasted No. 11 Oregon in a game between two teams that would at one point rise to No. 2 during the season, though both ultimately crumbled. The game turned on a strange play as the Ducks were on the cusp of tying the score. With 22 seconds to go, Dennis Dixon found Cameron Colvin near the goal line, but Colvin fumbled trying to reach the ball into the end zone when he was hit by Marcus Ezeff. The loose ball went through the end zone and was ruled a touchback and possession for Cal.
4. Washington 33, Oregon State 30, 2000: It was the greatest game no one saw because of the late, West Coast kickoff at Husky Stadium. And at the time, its magnitude wasn't clear. The critical play of the back-and-forth affair happened when Washington defensive tackle Larry Tripplett caught Ken Simonton for a three-yard loss on second-and-1 from the Huskies 26-yard line with 42 seconds left. The Beavers panicked and mistakenly spiked the ball -- they had a timeout left -- and then Ryan Cesca missed a 46-yard field goal to tie. It was the Beavers' only loss of the season; they crushed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. They would have played Oklahoma for the national title if they had prevailed. And the win helped the Huskies win the Rose Bowl tiebreaker.
3. USC 23, California 17, 2004: No. 7 California had a first-and-goal on top-ranked USC's 9-yard line with under two minutes left. At that point, Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers had completed 29 of 31 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown. But the Bears couldn't punch it in, with USC registering a sack and forcing three incompletions. It was the closest call of the season for the best team of the USC dynasty.
2. USC 34, Notre Dame 31, 2005: The infamous "Bush Push" game. No. 9 Notre Dame was about to knock off top-ranked rival USC and make Irish coach Charlie Weis a national sensation, but Matt Leinart led a drive for the ages in the waning moments as the Trojans prevailed, scoring the winning points when Leinart got a little extra help from Bush on his second effort on a quarterback sneak.
1. Texas 41, USC 38, 2006 Rose Bowl: Perhaps the great game in college football history, particularly considering that the stakes were a national title for two unbeaten teams and the field was packed with talent and future high draft choices. Vince Young almost single-handedly willed his team to the victory -- he ran for 200 yards and passed for 267 more -- and denied the Trojans a third consecutive national title. USC walked away with a laundry list of "what ifs," but the ultimate result was a 34-game winning streak coming to an end.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Have you seen Junior's grades?
- The NCAA investigation into USC's athletic department is building a case for lack of institutional control, according to this report.
- Fox Sports Arizona pays tribute to former Arizona State coach Bruce Snyder, who died on April 13.
- Jonathan Okanes continues his thorough review of California's spring practices with the Bears' secondary, which should be among the nation's best.
- Checking in with former Oregon star Max Unger in Seattle, and even more here on former Duck Nick Reed. Links courtesy of Addicted to Quack.
- It's too early to judge new UCLA defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough -- obviously -- but it appears he's bringing more intensity to the Bruins.
- Former Washington and Oregon quarterback Johnny DuRocher is trying to make a comeback.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
These links will get you to Friday.
- Stanford recruiting has Georgia on its mind, hooking a touted receiver. Is this a trend? Not to be outdone, Pete Carroll is trying to get his claws into a big-time defensive end from the state. Wonder if the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will run a correction because Carroll is the coach at USC and there is no school called Southern Cal, at least according to the institution the paper is apparently trying to reference?
- Arizona coach Mike Stoops has officially wrapped up spring practices.
- Arizona State's spring football prospectus has been released. And, to honor the memory of former Sun Devils coach Bruce Snyder, FOX Sports Arizona will replay the 1996 Arizona State-Nebraska football game Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The three-hour telecast will include some of Snyder's former ASU players talking about their coach, who passed away this week at the age of 69 after being diagnosed with cancer last June.
- California isn't holding an official spring game, but its final scrimmage Saturday is open to the public.
- New Oregon coach Chip Kelly will be a guest on a Pac-10-centric "College Football Live" on ESPN on April 23 (5 p.m., PDT). He also will be on ESPN's "Jim Rome is Burning" on Monday.
- Meet Oregon State's quarterback of the future.
- An amusing Q&A with UCLA linebacker Kyle Bosworth.
- The future looks bright for USC at offensive tackle.
- More on moving the Apple Cup to Seattle's Qwest Field.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Let these links brush your rock & roll hair.
- Former Arizona coach Dick Tomey, now San Jose State's head coach, remembers his former rival at Arizona State, Bruce Snyder, who died Monday. It still makes me smile that such a bitter rivalry featured two of the truly nice guys in coaching. A heartfelt column on a writer's falling out with Snyder. Monte Poole does a good job of describing the human cost of writing opinion, which often means criticizing people whom you like and respect. More thoughts on Snyder's passing.
- There are some questions in Oregon's secondary.
- Oregon State might start the biggest cornerback in the Pac-10. And the Beavers might be reloading instead of rebuilding their defensive line. Checking in on Monday's lackluster practice.
- Jon Wilner with some nice info/insights from Stanford's spring game, including an observation that Richard Sherman appears ready to contribute as a cornerback and receiver next fall.
- Still no final word on UCLA tight end Logan Paulsen's new foot injury. Coach Rick Neuheisel comments on the Bruins halfway through spring.
- Some of the players who have stood out -- good and bad -- at USC's spring practices.
- Washington coach Steve Sarkisian drops the hammer at practice and some Huskies respond. Washington receivers need to refine their game. And catch the ball. Jim Moore, with a new, more serious mug shot, allows Washington fans to vent about his latest hatchet job on the Huskies.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Bruce Snyder wasn't Arizona State's greatest coach. That would be Frank Kush. But Snyder ranks a solid No. 2, and he also was something few coaches are: well-rounded.
Snyder loved to read. He could talk incisively about things other than football. And, get this: He was a nice guy.
|AP Photo/Roy Dabner|
|Bruce Snyder went 126-106-5 in 20 years as a head coach.|
Not long ago, he was also doing something few football coaches do: Enjoy retirement.
Then, in June, his doctor gave him stunning news: He had Stage IV melanoma. The story is gracefully told in this column by George Schroeder.
The situation was dire. Realistically, it was a death sentence. But, of course, Snyder fought like crazy. And he shared his journey with the world on his blog.
But that final journey ended Monday. Snyder was 69. He leaves behind a wife, three daughters, a son-in-law, two grandchildren, four sisters, two brothers and his beloved dog, Ella.
And an impressive legacy.
His being well-rounded and good-natured, of course, isn't why Pac-10 fans will remember Snyder today. He was a heck of a football coach, winning Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors at two different schools and nearly leading Arizona State to a national championship in 1996.
He compiled a 58-47-0 record in nine seasons at Arizona State, the win total ranking second behind Kush.
What Arizona State fans will remember most fondly was a scintillating 1996 season, when Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman and the Sun Devils were in the national title hunt until the waning moments of the Rose Bowl, when Ohio State and quarterback Joe Germaine broke their hearts in a 20-17 defeat.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
And so it begins. Pause for a moment and imagine yourself 14 weeks hence. Are you smiling? Love the optimism!
- It's the worst-case scenario for Oregon QB Nate Costa -- knee injury ends his second-consecutive season. You may not like the Ducks, but it's hard to be unsympathetic to this guy -- a great talent who deserves a break. A look at those scheming coordinators. Three questions for Mike Bellotti -- with video!
- Don't Tase me, man! The 'Zona Zoo stadium policy for Arizona games hopefully will be clearer this season. The Wildcats new special-teams coach isn't new to the Wildcats. The offense is hoping for successful drives, but this guy knows a thing or two about doing those drives fast.
- Arizona State may sit starting TB Keegan Herring against Northern Arizona. Here's how to keep up with the progress of former Sun Devils coach (and all-around great guy) Bruce Snyder, who's battling cancer. Noting the Sun Devils. Hey, Coach, you guys need a long-snapper? Er, yeah.
- A California preview. Concerns from Wednesday's practice: Are CB Syd'Quan Thompson and WR Michael Calvin healthy? Ray Ratto takes a look at Bay Area college football and the types of faith on either side of the Bay Bridge.
- The Oregonian's College Football Preview. Oregon State QB Lyle Moevao is playing it cool. It's going to be hot at Stanford, perhaps in more ways than one, because the Beavers are hoping for a fast start.
- A Stanford preview. The Cardinal have some questions at WR. The keys to success. And 10 things to watch for in the Standford-OSU game.
- UCLA's Rick Neuheisel has a plan. Part of that plan is probably for DT Brian Price to terrorize offenses. Price suffered through a lot of pain before arriving in Westwood. It appears OT Micah Kia will be able to start against Tennessee with a cast on his injured hand. Here's how starting QB Kevin Craft ended up at UCLA. Practice notes.
- If USC QB Mark Sanchez goes down, it will be Aaron Corp coming in, not Mitch Mustain. Some reaction from Mustain. Checking in with Taylor Mays. And Virginia's 3-4 defense will be a good preview for California's new look.
- At Washington, a former walk-on will replace E.J. Savannah at LB. It's urgency time for Tyrone Willingham. A good way to improve: Stop the second-half meltdowns, which might happen with a more savvy, experienced Jake Locker. Noting Wednesday's practice. Success depends on a handful of freshmen growing up quickly.
- Bud Withers considers how long Washington State's Paul Wulff will need to adjust to Pac-10 football. He also looks at fifth-year senior QB Gary Rogers. T
he Cougars like playing a game in Seattle. From an unrecruited walk-on to Cougars OL starter, that's the short trip for local product Brian Danaher.
- Will 2008 be nearly as nutty as 2007? We shall see. Jake Curtis previews the Pac-10. So does Jonathan Okanes here.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
I love the smell of links in the morning...
- Former Arizona State coach Bruce Snyder, 68, is fighting cancer.
- UCLA has issues on its offensive line, and it's already trying to address them, according to the LA Daily News. Redshirt freshman tight end Nate Chandler is moving from tight end to right tackle, where he could immediately compete to fill the void left by the injured Sean Sheller, who got hurt in an ATV accident this summer. Chandler will need to eat some biscuits in coming weeks -- he only tips the scales at 273 pounds. I'd suggest the country fried steak & eggs at Denny's.
- Some more thoughts on the sad death of Oregon's Todd Doxey here and here. Here's information on a memorial fund.
- Here's some sympathetic musing on how Washington's Tyrone Willingham faces a brutal schedule in a win-or-else season.
- The LA Times USC blog has information on how you can fulfill all your USC fantasies and help a good cause at the same time.
- There's a new guy on Stanford's broadcast team. Former Cardinal QB Todd Husak will join Dave Flemming in the radio booth.
- The Oklahoman takes a look at an Oklahoma State opponent... Washington State and new coach Paul Wulff. It points out that Wulff is both a man and recently turned 41. Now why would that be of note?
- Hey... the OFFICIAL Pac-10 web site is getting all previewy... today it's Arizona State. Tomorrow, perhaps, the world. This is for you, Arizona fans. Cal, my guess is you're next due to my knowledge of the alphabet.
- Speaking of Arizona... Bleacher Report -- Citizen Sports Journalists -- has a Q&A with the Wildcats director of football operations Erick Harper.