The Arizona State University Sun Devil football team arrived at Camp Tontozona Wednesday to kick off a pre-season training tradition that began 28 years ago under legendary hall of fame coach Frank Kush.
The Sun Devils will continue to train at the secluded mountain retreat, located 17 miles East of Payson near Kohl's Ranch, until Aug. 15 when the team will return to the ASU campus in Tempe.
There, preparations will continue for the Sun Devils' season opener Sept. 1 against San Jose State in Tempe.
For fans who want a free, up close and personal look at the Sun Devils during their stay at Tontozona, the best opportunity might be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) during a fan's scrimmage.
The Sun Devils will also practice:
- Aug 12: 3 to 5:15 p.m.
- Aug.13: 8:50 to 11:05 a.m. and 4 to
- 6:15 p.m.
- Aug.14: 3 to 5:15 p.m.
- Aug.15: 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Although there were clear skies when the Sun Devils arrived at Tontozona, monsoon weather clouds traditionally crop up usually during the evening hours. Earlier this week, Tonto Creek was overflowing and the field was flooded.
If downpours arrive soon and the field is too wet to safely practice, sessions will be moved to the Rumsey Park artificial surface field located south of the library.
Last year under former Sun Devil coach Dirk Koetter, the team practiced almost at much at Rumsey as it did at Tontozona.
Eventually, Koetter called off Tontozona camp two days early to return to Tempe.
Returning to the Valley has been a bad omen for coaches. Koetter was fired last season and in 2000, Bruce Snyder left early and the team finished 6-6, costing the coach his job.
In 1989, under former coach Larry Marmie, the Sun Devils never got off the traveling bus due to rain. The team returned to Tempe, finished 6-4-1, and Marmie was fired two years later.
New ASU coach Dennis Erickson has indicated that if rains fall at Tontozona as they have in the past, he won't hesitate packing up the players and returning to the Valley.
Erickson is probably the most celebrated coach to take a Sun Devil team to Tontozona since the 1960s and 70s heydays of Kush.
Erickson, a two-time national champion (1989 and 1991), a two-time winner of the Pac-10 Coach of the Year Award (1988 and 2000) and the Sporting News National Coach of the Year in 2000, was named Dec. 11, 2006 the 22nd football coach at ASU.
Erickson's 148 wins ranks him 12th among active coaches.
Twice Erickson tried the NFL after outstanding college coaching performances. He took over the Seattle Seahawks in 1995 and went 31-33 in four seasons. In 2003 and 2004, he coached the San Francisco 49ers and went 9-23 in two seasons.