From Headline to Footnote

An old football maxim goes something like this: "The one and only job of a football fan is to show up and support his team." This writer, however, wonders if that axiom still holds true even if the team itself fails to attend its own game.

Hey maybe we all missed the fine print when Arizona State Athletic Director Gene Smith announced off-season plans to lower Sun Devil football season-tickets by an average of 38 percent. A bit of investigative journalism involving a phone call to a season-ticket holder immediately following Saturday's Arizona State loss to Cal went something like this:

"Hey, tough loss, huh?"

"Yeah, I don't really want to talk about it, I'm too upset."

"Just one quick question."

"OK, what."

"Is there a disclaimer on the back of your tickets?"

"A disclaimer?"

"Yeah, something like this:"

*Disclaimer: Sun Devil season-ticket holders should expect a reduction in quality of play comparable to the average 38 percent drop in price.

"Haha, no, nothing like that."

"OK, thanks, I was just wondering."

"Sure"

Look, football coaches are paid to win, and paid very handsomely. Dirk Koetter received $758,950 last year, or a little less than a hundred thousand dollars per win. When you are making that kind of money, people do not want to hear anything you have to say following a loss in which your team fails to even show up.

Especially a homecoming game.

Koetter is not being paid handsomely to break things down into meticulous statistical categories and then pass those things along ad nauseam to media and fans alike, with a little "I think we're really close" attached. Pure and simple, he is paid to win.

At the end of the day, it's all about winning. Most fans could not tell the difference between a one-gap defense and this team's gap-toothed defense and really it doesn't matter.

If Koetter has to buy an alarm clock so he can set it for 3:17 a.m. every morning and get an early jump on things like John Gruden does at Tampa Bay, so be it. If he needs a leather sofa moved into his office in the Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) building so that he can sleep on it following late nights at work like Dick Vermeil does at Kansas City, it should, by all means, be given to him.

You have to give Koetter a little credit. He has never been one to make excuses and he is willing to accept personal responsibility for his team's performance. He may not be as witty as legendary coach John McKay who was once asked what he thought of his team's execution and replied by saying, "I'm in favor of it," but then again, it's doubtful that ASU fans are much in the mood for joking at this juncture.

Even so, the "execution" of this team's defensive scheme might be called for. The Sun Devils are into their third season with Brent Guy in charge of the defense and even with a predominance of players recruited by this coaching staff getting the majority of the game-snaps, there has been little if any sustained progress as a unit. In the last six games the Devils have given up an average of 33 points.

Still, Koetter has been steadfast in his support for Guy and the Devils' 4-2-5 defensive scheme and his loyalty is, on one hand, commendable. Perhaps he is correct in his belief that the system can work, after all, Virginia Tech uses a similar scheme and just destroyed the previously undefeated Miami Hurricanes on Saturday evening.

On the other hand, Koetter's loyalty to Guy may promote further problems. Already there is a groundswell with some in the Sun Devil community who favor the hiring of an offensive coordinator in order to reduce the number of directions in which Koetter is currently being pulled. An allegiance to a defensive coordinator that is not getting the job done can only make things worse in this regard.

Koetter's obvious disdain of media and fans questioning him appears from time to time in the form of mocking quotes or snide commentary. It is true that most of us (read: football laypeople) do not understand the game of football the way he or any Division-One football coach would, and in that sense the idea that he would have to waste valuable time placating boosters or explaining himself to mere football mortals in the media is understandable.

However, it does not take a football guru to see or know that serious problems exist in this program on the defensive side of the ball, and that something must be done, in short order, to rectify this situation. Otherwise, the coaching career of Dirk Koetter at Arizona State might be the thing Sun Devil fans eventually see in fine print – in the form of a footnote.

The author can be contacted at socaldevil1998@yahoo.com

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