It’s official…ASU football will return to Camp Tontozona

A press conference at Arizona State has confirmed an August trip for the football team back to Camp Tontozona.

The “Return to Camp T” campaign reached its June 1 deadline for raising $150,000 to send the Sun Devils and their new coaching staff back up the hill to Payson, where the Sun Devils held annual spring practices dating back to 1960 and running to 2008 when Dennis Erickson, the head coach at that time, brought the practices back to campus.

It was necessary to raise the money because the outdated camp facilities needed to be brought into the digital age, upgrading the technology so that cell phones and other communication devices could be used by the coaches.

While there was never much doubt that the football team would be making the trip back to Camp Tontozona, the ASU Athletic Department still felt it necessary to call a press conference yesterday to announce the success of the fund-raising effort.  They even called the new head coach, Todd Graham, back in off the recruiting trail to join in the presser.

There has been much publicity surrounding the idea of returning to the idyllic retreat just east of Payson, near the rustic Kohl’s Ranch (See Phxfan 3/01/12 article).  Former players, coaches, and fans wanted to see a return to the tradition of the past, begun under Frank Kush in the ’60s.

Local residents in the Payson area have also been hoping the program would return, giving the ASU fans up in the north country an opportunity to take in a few practices and get to know the players and coaches – not to mention the boost to the economy.  The White Mountain Sun Devil Club alumni chapter committed to match donations during the campaign.

Graham selected Aug. 14-18 for the return of the team to Tontozona.

“I love the tradition of college football,” Graham explained.  “That is one of the reasons I coach at the collegiate level.  Camp Tontozona is one of the famous icons in the history of college football.  I wanted to take my first team there because the tradition begins at Tontozona, just like it did in 1960.  Every player, every coach, and many fans begin each season in the tall pines of northeast Payson.”

Graham was hired in mid-December to take over after Erickson’s dimissal following three straight disappointing seasons.

“Coach Frank Kush had a vision,” he added.  “It worked well then, and it will again.”

During his 22 years at the helm of the program, Kush compiled a 176-54-1 record, posted an undefeated season and multiple conference crowns, and made a couple of Rose Bowl appearances.  He has always attributed the work accomplished each season at Tontozona as a major factor to the success of his teams.

“Camp Tontozona united Sun Devil football players from every generation and we wanted to return to that tradition,” said ASU Vice President for University Athletics/Athletic Director Steve Patterson, who joined with Graham in making yesterday’s announcement.

According to school officials, nearly 500 people donated to the campaign, including former players representing the last six decades of Sun Devil football.