Is it time for contract extension for ASU’s football coach?

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                </div>Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me. That’s an old adage that’s frequently called up when important decisions are about to be made on the […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

That’s an old adage that’s frequently called up when important decisions are about to be made on the heels of earlier decisions that didn’t turn out too well.  You have to wonder whether Arizona State should consider the wisdom contained in those two simple sentences as they consider extending the contract of their freshly-minted head football coach.

According to a weekend article in The Arizona Republic, the brass at ASU are “discussing a contract extension” for Todd Graham, the man hired before last season to try to revive a program that had fallen into a state of malaise during the five years that Dennis Erickson ran the show.

From all appearances, Graham has done a superb job in putting the pieces back in place to make ASU a legitimate national contender.  He has instilled discipline that was sorely lacking under Erickson, reached out into the community to forge bonds among fans and alumni, and put an emphasis on recruiting from the local high schools.  He even restored the revered tradition of taking the team up to Camp Tontozona for fall practices.

His old-school approach to the game has even been compared in many ways to that of the legendary Frank Kush, who has a special place in the annals of Sun Devil athletics and the hearts of the alumni.  Kush was on the sidelines for 22 years, where he won multiple conference titles, elevated the program to a national presence, and – particularly important to Devil fans – took the team to the Rose Bowl.

Considering all that, it’s a little too easy to get giddy over an 8-5 record last year, the first winning season in five years, and a victory over Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl – the first bowl win since 2005.

Graham has completed one season in Tempe, albeit a successful one.  Just one season.

Dennis Erickson, too, came on strong in his first season… the first 10-win season in almost a decade, a share of the conference title, and Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors.  But it was the last winning season in his five years as the Sun Devil head coach.

Graham is a winner, so why shouldn’t he continue winning?  He was named the 2006 Conference USA Coach of the Year at Rice and posted back-to-back 10-win seasons at Tulsa, where his teams twice led the nation in total offense.

Dennis Erickson, too, was a proven winner.  The Hall of Fame coach won two national championships at Miami. But how much good did that do when he started losing at ASU?

He was a controversial hire in the first place and his failure proved to be a significant factor in the dismissal of the school’s athletic director, Lisa Love, who hired him amid concerns from fans and alumni.

And there’s one other comparison between the two men.  They always had one eye on the next job.

Erickson had a troublesome reputation as a career nomad.  He never stayed more than four years at any one stop, at both the college and pro levels, the exception being ASU – where he evidently over-stayed his welcome.

Graham has some of that traveling blood in him as well.  Four years seems to be his limit, too.  He lasted four at Tulsa, but just one year at Rice and one at Pittsburgh, his last stop before coming to the desert.  While at Pitt, it was no secret that he was job-hunting even while he coached the Panthers.

And that, no doubt, is why the ASU administration feels the need to offer a contract extension so quickly.  They think they have a good coach, and they want to keep him.  There’s always a bigger, more nationally-prominent program out there that is on the prowl for a new head coach and willing to pay more than the $2 million he’s making now.

But, for all the good things that Graham has brought to the ASU program, from discipline to fan involvement, it still comes down to winning games.  Even the coaches who are really great people have to win to keep their jobs.  That’s just the nature of the business – and college football is a business.

Graham is under contract through 2016, but contracts don’t mean much when a coach decides he wants to leave, and another school wants him badly enough.  However, it can really get messy – and costly – when a school decides it wants to jettison their head coach while he still has years left on his contract.

So wouldn’t it be a better idea to see what a second season brings – and then address the idea of rolling out a new contract?

(Photo: ASU Athletics)