In April Arizona State's athletic program announced its intent to raise money ($150,000) to be able to send the Sun Devil football team back to Camp Tontozona for a week of practice, a scrimmage and team building. On Thursday, ASU athletic director announced, along with head football coach Todd Graham and Payson mayor Kenny Evans, that the goal was reached and that the football team would in fact be returning to Camp Tontozona in August for the football camp that they held for decades until the tradition ended with previous head coach Dennis Erickson.
But it was time to return. Graham said that when he was first hired by ASU, among the conversations he had with many former players, bringing back the tradition of Camp Tontozona was something that came up a lot.
"We looked back at Tontozona and recognized it as a place that binds many generations of ASU football, going back nearly 60 years," said Patterson.
"With all the luxuries we have in college football and really with those luxuries so many distractions. To be able to go to a secluded place like that our first year, when relationship is so important," said Graham. He noted that this being their first year, it is exactly what the team needs and something that they wish to continue.
People responded to the call of raising the necessary finances necessary to make the camp happen.
Over 500 people donated between $10 and $10,000. It included ASU staff, former ASU athletes, including "football players from every decade" and more.
The big push came from a matching donation program that came from The White Mountain Sun Devil Club Alumni Chapter, which matched every dollar given from that date forward up to $65,000.
"Tradition is one thing that brings people together," said Graham. "It's a great day that we can restore that tradition (returning to Tontozona) and hopefully will continue to be something that we keep doing."
The program surpassed the goal they had set of $150,000. They raised a little more than $160,000. For the team to keep going back each year, there will need to be monies to be raised, but Patterson said they do not plan to have a specific Tontozona campaign every year, as much of the funds needed this year were for capital items there. Nonetheless, the impression was made that to be able to continue with the tradition it will require a continued effort in donations from the public.
Even with the money raised, getting up to Camp T was not that easy. There is a very small window of time with which to work. The athletes have summer school until August 14 and the team's first game is August 30. So they will have to get up there, do it and get back for a week of practice before their season opener.
The one date that seemed to be penciled in was the scrimmage, which is set for August 18.
One thing that has come from this is an energy among Sun Devil fans for the football program -- a rallying cry. The program needs to take advantage and put a quality product on the field so not to lose this momentum. Otherwise the push to get them back will only end up a one year stay, which really doesn't do the program any good at all.
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