An Arizona State University football team picked to finish fourth in the PAC-10 will soon spend 10 days at Camp Tontozona east of Payson tuning up for the coming season.
The Devils are slated to arrive at the scenic mountain retreat Aug. 9 and hold their first practice the following day.
Fan scrimmages, which annually draw throngs of Valley area football fans, will be held at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 13 and 19. Following the first scrimmage, the team will retreat to the cozy confines of Taylor Pool and later Sawmill Theatres for a cool respite from the rigors of camp.
After the second scrimmage, the team returns to its Tempe campus to begin preparations for a Sept. 1 season opener against Temple.
Exact practice times at Tontozona were not available at press time, but coach Dirk Koetter traditionally practices the team twice a day -- in the morning and late afternoon.
Last year those sessions began about 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. On Sundays, there is usually just one practice.
According to town of Payson Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind, ASU officials have made plans to use the Rumsey Park all-weather surface for practice if the Tontozona field is drenched by monsoon rains.
There is no admission charge to any of the practices or scrimmages whether they be at Tontozona or Rumsey.
Visitors to Tontozona will notice the Arizona State University retreat has received a facelift.
Last year, almost $1 million in school funds were spent to upgrade the facility located near Kohl's Ranch.
The new features include two cabins, one of which replaced the trailer that formerly housed freshmen recruits in Spartan-like conditions.
In the old trailer, it was an ASU tradition for upperclassmen to play pranks on unsuspecting freshmen. The ploys often included releasing insects, snakes and variety of wild animals --sually skunks --nto the cramped confines.
In addition to the new cabins at Tontozona, meeting rooms and a second playing field have been added.
According to ASU officials, there are also plans under way to widen the main playing field.
The camp is vastly improved over the one that former Sun Devil coach Frank Kush and a handful of football supporters helped carve out of the mountain in 1960.
Although Arizona State's summer home has changed, it continues to provide the Sun Devils with a pristine, secluded setting for concentration and preparation for the coming season.
In Phil Steele's 2005 College Football Preview magazine, the Devils are projected to finish behind the University of Southern California, California and Oregon in the final PAC-10 standings.
ASU lost only 10 lettermen, the fewest in the PAC-10, off last season's Sun Bowl championship team that posted a 9-3 record.