Will ASU fans see Coach Sumlin on the sidelines of Sun Devil Stadium? We can only hope so. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
After five disappointing years, it's time to end the Dennis Erickson era and get a dynamic young coach to bring Arizona State to prominence. That coach is Houston's Kevin Sumlin.
Many things can be overlooked in a relationship. Annoying habits, flawed logic and unkept promises can all be dealt with, but one thing usually kills a relationship immediately--cheating. It's the ultimate betrayal.
With the loss to Washington State, Dennis Erickson has cheated on Sun Devil Nation.
It's time to break up.
Saturday's frigid snowfall in Pullman could do nothing to cool off Erickson's hot seat. As Connor Halliday took a knee on the game's final play, the clock ticking down to zero may as well have also been counting down to the end of his tenure in Tempe.
Yes, the Sun Devils are bowl eligible and with two games left in the season, winning the division title is not too much of a stretch.
Sorry, but a South title asterisked with USC's ineligibility is damn sure not worth a few more seasons of this.
When thinking about the Erickson era at Arizona State, what adjectives come to mind?
How about disappointing. Undisciplined. Self-destructive. Maddening. Numbing. Lame. Unfulfilling.
I'll stop there.
The flashy new uniforms can't conceal the fact that, ultimately, the Sun Devils are right where they were five years ago when Erickson took over for Dirk Koetter. A high powered offensive team that is, at best, a middle of the road team in the conference.
To break it down by the numbers, Koetter went 36-27, and went to four bowls over his final five seasons. With two games remaining in his fifth season, Erickson is 31-28 and is eligible to go to his second bowl.
No matter what happens this year or how great the 2012 recruiting class is shaping up to be, that performance is not deserving of the much discussed contract extension. The university, fans and community deserve better than a program that is wasting its vast potential by running in place.
It's time for a new head coach and a new era.
Sorry, Mike Leach. Too bad, Rich Rodriguez. Not gonna happen, Mike Belloti. This program doesn't need another big-name coaching retread whose best days are behind them to spin the tires for a few seasons, collecting a fat paycheck while hoping for Holiday and Sun Bowls.
Arizona State needs a talented up-and-comer who can bring a new energy, approach and culture to Tempe. It needs a proven winner who can finally build something special.
It needs Kevin Sumlin.
Sumlin has taken the foundation laid by Art Briles and built up the Cougars into a terrific program. The Cougars have posted a 33-16 record during his tenure, and Sumlin was the 2009 Conference USA Coach of the Year and a finalist for the Paul "Bear" Bryant National Coach of the Year Award that year as well.
He is an offensive guru, first gaining notice as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops. In 2007, his final season at the offensive helm, he orchestrated the fifth highest scoring attack in the nation.
That performance led him to become the successor to Briles at Houston. His offensive schemes have translated to some seriously eye-popping numbers. From his first season in 2008, his offenses have ranked 2nd, 1st, 11th and are again leading the nation in total offense, as well as scoring.
(Just take a second to think about a Sumlin offense next season led by Brock Osweiler and featuring weapons like Cameron Marshall, Jamal Miles a healthy Deantre Lewis and perhaps top recruit D.J. Foster. Let that sink in. Yeah...)
He's also improved the defense every season, going from 111th in 2009 to 60th this year. You may think 67th isn't that great, but it's 28 spots better than ASU. His defensive coordinator is Brian Stewart, who held the same position with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007 and 2008. During those two years, his 3-4 scheme finished in the top 10 in total defense and was a blitzing force, leading the league in sacks in 2007 and finishing third the next. That attacking success has carried over to the college ranks, as this year, Houston is 26th in sacks.
I hear the counter-argument. Tons of yards and points in the CUSA. So what?
The fact is, the great coaches always rise to the top, no matter where their journeys begin. They can resurrect long dormant programs or build their own in distant outposts on the college football map.
Think about some recent up-and-comers and the paths they have taken.
Urban Meyer worked his way up through Bowling Green and Utah. Butch Jones' made a trip from Central Michigan to Cincinnati. Chris Petersen at Boise State and Gary Patterson at TCU built powerhouses from the ground up. Go ahead and toss in Brady Hoke's success at Michigan coming over from San Diego State.
Great coaches are the most valuable commodity in the sport. ASU hasn't had once in a long, long time.
Kevin Sumlin is a great coach. Kevin Sumlin needs to be Arizona State's coach.
Money can not be used as an excuse. Erickson's contract is set to expire after the 2012 season and he is due a $1.5-million base salary.
By comparison, Sumlin is in the second season of a six-year, $6.8-million contract, making only $1.13-million a year, but the key figure is that his buyout is only $600,000. Even with a moderate raise to sweeten the deal, Sumlin is definitely in Arizona State's budget, especially considering the upcoming Pac-12 media deal revenue.
The virtues and potential of the Arizona State head coaching job--location, Pac-12 growth, recruiting areas, campus etc.-- have been discussed and bandied about for years, so this isn't the venue to rehash those. But they surely look even better compared to the future of Houston in the cobbled together and piecemeal Big East, especially with the automatic qualifying spots in the BCS in danger of being eliminated in the next deal in 2014.
At 47, Sumlin is still young by coaching standards. He's a proven winner that is just beginning to enter into the prime of his coaching career. He's served with the big boys and led the little guys to national prominence. He can be the long-term answer that has eluded the Devils for so many decades.
They say that nothing helps with the last one better than the next one. After years of having their heart broken, it 's time for ASU to find the right one. It's time for Kevin Sumlin.