Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Manager John Stanton’s hope is for throngs of locals to turn out at about 3 p.m. today, Tuesday, to give a huge Rim Country welcome to the Arizona State University football team as it travels through Payson bound for Camp Tontozona where the Devils will conduct preseason training for the first time in five years.
Stanton would like greeters to gather at the corner of Beeline and Main near the chamber office to cheer the players as they pass through. He’s also encouraging greeters to make banners and posters and wear school colors of maroon and gold, if they wish.
The team will not practice today, but will undergo two-a-days tomorrow, Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The team also practices 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on both Thursday and Friday, and holds a fan scrimmage 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. ASU officials are expecting thousands of fans to turn out for the scrimmage so their best advice is to get an early start.
Because a road widening construction project is under way on SR 260 near the Camp Tontozona turnoff, entry into the scenic mountain retreat can be confusing.
In approaching the camp turnoff while traveling east on 260, be sure to pay close attention to signs and stay to the right side of the highway that forks just before reaching the turnoff.
At Tontozona, the chamber of commerce will set up a hospitality tent where they will be doling out “Chamber Hospitality Bags” to fans.
In them will be discount coupons to local businesses.
Fans are welcome at all the practices and there is no admission charge.
While ASU has not been to Tontozona since 2008, fans have traditionally parked along SR 260 because the lot at the camp is small and spots are often unavailable.
Those who park on SR 260 must hike into the camp, so it is wise to wear comfortable shoes and bring along drinking water.
Former ASU coach Dennis Erickson pulled the plug on the university’s scenic mountain retreat in 2008, preferring to train the football team in the $8.4 million Dickey Dome on the Tempe campus.
Newly appointed head coach Todd Graham has taken the opposite position, saying he championed a return to Tontozona partly because it was one of the university’s proudest traditions and the camp will offer players and coaches a chance to focus totally on football away from distractions.
“No cell phones, no Internet, the team-building opportunities, kind of roughing it,” will lead to gridiron success, Graham predicts.
Graham also said returning to Tontozona, where the team trained for 47 years, mostly under legendary coach Frank Kush, was important to former players, alumni and Kush himself.
“I think you should protect the heritage and tradition of the program,” Graham said.
The new coach’s position has drawn plaudits from alumni, fans and former players who contend Erickson erred in doing away with training at Tontozona.
The last time the Devils had a winning season was 2008, which is also the last time the team trained at Tontozona.
Some say that departure hexed the future success of the Sun Devils.
It’s John, not Frank
My apologies to Payson Men’s Golf Association member John Calderwood for mistakenly writing his first name as “Frank.”
I’ve been writing about his exploits on the golf course for about two decades, so it’s a little baffling why I wrote “Frank.”
I’m going to attribute the miscue to old age, but it could have also been that dreaded “deadline.”
More than a few scribe errors can be attributed to last gasp attempts to get a story finished on time.