Arizona State football needs to blow it up and start over.
And, no, I’m not suggesting that ASU fire Herm Edwards, that would make as much sense as hiking Camelback Mountain in the dead of July.
ASU needs to get out of the Pac-12 and potentially out of the arms race that college football has become with USC and UCLA making plans to defect for the Big Ten.
It’s clear that a year into a sweeping rule change that allows student-athletes to get paid, “name, image and likeness” deals have forever altered the landscape of college sports. Players can now sign endorsements to earn money from their fame and reputation.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said recently that his star quarterback has about $1 million in NIL deals.
The Miami Hurricanes football program could soon boast that every scholarship player earns at least $500 per month in walking-around money.
And Bijan Robinson, the Texas Longhorns running back, has a Lamborghini deal. That’s right, a 20-year-old from Tucson can drive one of the most exotic sports cars imaginable. (I can’t speak for Mr. Robinson, but when I was 20, I wouldn’t have been able to figure out when and how to get the oil changed on one of those things — I could barely do it in my old Pontiac .)
ASU needs to get out of this rat race before it gets any worse and there are a few ways that can happen.
Lose the Pac mentality
ASU could start by pulling out of the Pac-12.
That conference has never been what the Sun Devils are all about, anyway.
When ASU made its mark under Frank Kush, it was in the Western Athletic Conference.
In those days, the WAC comprised schools such as Colorado State, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Since in 1978, when ASU took a step up to battle with big-money programs such as USC, Washington and Oregon, the Sun Devils mostly have been burned.
Realistically, the WAC today is a small-scale conference with programs like Dixie State and UT-Rio Grande Valley. It wouldn’t match ASU’s needs or competitive ambitions.
The Mountain West, however, with Colorado State, Nevada and Air Force, could be a good match.
And if boosters and alumni don’t like that plan, they could vote with their wallets to keep trying to get ahead of the newly weakened Pac.
Ground to a halt
ASU football also should ditch the running game.
That’s not to say the Herm Edwards ground-and-pound offense is inherently problematic, but why not stop playing 11-on-11 full-contact football altogether?
ASU could be at the forefront of intercollegiate 7-on-7 football, a high-flying, low-contact cousin of the full game.
This would take ASU out of the head-trauma debate that comes with every snap of every football game on every level.
It would also allow ASU football to further exploit its vaunted pro model, setting up an academy of sorts for quarterbacks and other skill players to hone their games before transferring to a program where they can take advantage of massive NIL deals.
This little Devil went to marketing
Finally, ASU also needs to create the best marketing department in all of college sports.
Athletes should expect to come to ASU as something of a finishing school where they learn to communicate and present themselves as ideal candidates to endorse the right types of products. They should learn to be themselves and how to become comfortable sharing that with the public.
This department should help student-athletes with everything from leveraging Instagram and Tik Tok accounts to writing and presenting marketing plans in a Shark Tank environment where they get to pitch to real potential sponsors, assuming the compliance department fully vets the details for potential NCAA violations.
But every player in every program should feel confident that they can land an NIL contract and parlay that into a sports business career based on the training they get from this program.
Love these ideas? Great. Hate ’em? Come up with your own and send them to me. But at this point, it’s clear that ASU football has to blow things up.
With NIL rules in place, it’s clear that doing things the same old way isnt going to work.
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