After listening to newly appointed Arizona State University football coach Todd Graham speak at the “Return to Camp T” press conference held April 19 in Sun Devil Stadium, it’s obvious he might be the type of task master fans have been clamoring for since Frank Kush was cut loose as coach.
Graham comes across as a hard-nosed, old school coach much like Kush was during his successful years at Arizona State.
Among the reasons Graham was probably hired is because he stresses discipline and that’s a quality the Sun Devils lacked under former coach Dennis Erickson.
Those who have taken in spring practices under Graham noticed a change in demeanor from the Erickson era.
Players now sprint on and off the field and to and from the huddle. The new coach doesn’t tolerate lazy attitudes including from those players who are recovering from injuries.
They too must engage in some type of conditioning or strength training during practices rather than standing on the sidelines.
In the football offices, players are not allowed to wear jewelry, shirts must be tucked in, no headphones or hats.
Athletic department employees say they notice there is a different attitude among the players in that they conduct themselves more like a family rather than an individual out for attention and the spoils of the sport.
Most importantly for those of us who live in the Rim Country, Graham is leading a campaign to earn $150,000 to pay the expenses to return the Sun Devils to Camp Tontozona where they haven’t conducted pre-season training since Erickson pulled the plug on the mountain retreat.
At the conference, Graham seemed genuinely delighted to return to Tontozona because it provides a unique setting for concentration and preparation for the next season.
He also said he’s elated players will not be able to use cell phones and other electronic gadgets at Tontozona because its remote location doesn’t receive services.
He also hinted he and his staff could turn back time by reinstituting some of the traditions of Kush including running Mt. Kush, just south of the football field, as punishment for misdeeds.
Rob Peterson, a standout linebacker on ASU’s undefeated 1975 Fiesta Bowl team, is among those who has been outspoken in his desire to have the Devils return to Tontozona.
“Camp Tontozona truly defines Arizona State Football as the first step in bringing young men, coaches and staff together to build a championship season. Camp Tontozona represents a ton of focus, dedication and hard work. Clearly, a lot of people hated Camp T because it was hard, it lacked the comforts of home, and it forced people of different backgrounds to work together.
“What we all came to realize, is that this place in the mountains, the hard work, focus, and attention to football brought team building and produced championship seasons.
“You see, football players from Yuma, Eloy, Safford, Tempe, Miami, Coolidge, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, (even Ajo) Arizona got to see how football players from Jonesboro Pennsylvania, Bayonne, New Jersey, Portland, Oregon, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Flint Michigan, Honolulu Hawaii, San Diego, San Clamente, Los Angeles, California, Dallas, Texas and other places around the country were made of.
What we found was that we had a lot in common and that after 33 practices in 11 days come rain or shine we wanted to kick the hell out of the U of A when we came down from the mountain.... (And we did !!!)”