ASU’s spring football camp is now over, and it was obvious to all observers that things have changed. Discipline, teaching, and hustle defined the practices. A clear break from the Dennis Erickson regime. Nothing has been proven on the gridiron just yet, but the trend is exciting Sun Devil Nation. Time to buy your season tickets.
For the fourth straight year, ASU has improved its Graduation Success Rate, reaching an all-time high. It now sits one point shy of its 80% goal (established when the GSR was created) and only 4 points from second place in the conference.
“The graduation success rate is the most significant measure of student athlete academic achievement that exists, ” said Jean Boyd, Associate Athletic Director for the Office of Student-Athlete Development. “This is the fourth consecutive year that we have improved in our Graduation Success Rate. The 79-percent ranks us in the Top 5 of the Pac-12, which is an elite academic and athletic conference. We are just one percentage point away from our goal of reaching 80-percent and are working hard to reach that goal.”
In addition, ASU’s football team ranks third in the conference, trailing only Washington and perennial leader Stanford. UA, which has often unfairly denigrated ASU’s academics while performing much worse, again manages to rank dead last.
ASU has been helping to set the national lead in academic support services and innovation in the last few years, owing much of its success to Jean Boyd and a renewed athletic department commitment to academics. Kudos to another year of solid improvement.
It wasn’t necessarily a pretty game for the Sun Devils, but it was enough of an effort to knock off #22 Missouri in a nationally televised and highly anticipated matchup.
The Sun Devils took control of the game in the fourth quarter, only to squander a 14-pt lead late and survive overtime. The win, which broke Missouri’s long streak of out-of-conference wins and gave ASU’s its first win over a ranked team since its 2007 Pac-10 co-championship year, lived up to the hype of the Blackout.
The sellout crowd was in it from beginning, had a great showing of black to match the new uniforms on the field, and rejoiced when Jamal Miles scored a touchdown in overtime and the defense held Mizzou on fourth down to secure the win.
For those of you who wanted to relive the thrilling overtime period, check out the video below:
I cannot wait for tonight’s game—this has been a very long offseason.
Expectations for the season
Dennis Erickson needs to win at least 8 games to save his job. He’s been building this team for too long.
The defense will be generally solid, especially against the run. We have enough talent on the offensive side of the ball to really challenge opposing teams. Team speed will be on display all season long.
With high expectations, new uniforms, and some experience, this team may return to the swagger of 2007.
Prediction for the season:
We will win 8 games this season. I was solidly in the 9-win camp until the rash of offseason injuries and departures. I think that the injury bug could easily steal at least one win from the team this year, so now I’m down to 8. If Brock plays well and doesn’t make too many critical mistakes, and if our pass rush makes up for the injuries in the secondary and at linebacker, I think we can easily win nine games, maybe even ten. The early stretch is going to be key. If the Devils can come out of the first four games at 3-1, we’ll be well on our way to a good to great season.
- Net turnovers. That includes our turnover margin, as well as stupid penalties and dumb mistakes that stall offensive drives and give opposing offenses a second chance. ASU has not excelled in this area since Erickson’s arrival.
- The kicking and punting game – new punter, new snapper, new holder, new kicker. Hey, what could go wrong here?
- Depth, particularly on defense: starters Lawrence Guy, Omar Bolden, James Brooks, and Brandon Magee all gone, with additional injuries to backups such as Devon Spann. On offense, we’re missing experienced backups in Threet and Sakacsy, and significant contributors TJ Simpson and Deantre Lewis. Does this team have enough depth to overcome the string of bad luck we’ve had? If Brock goes down, it’s hard to think we’ll be able to compete for a South Division title.
It’s Time. Go Devils!
The University of Arizona and its fans have often, and repeatedly, chided ASU as an academically inferior institution. In particular, UA football coach Mike Stoops has repeatedly lobbed false claims that recruits who chose ASU over UA did so because it was easier to get into ASU, even though admissions standards are set by ABOR and are identical at all three state universities.
When it comes to the academic accomplishments of its athletes, UA is right: things are different in Tucson—but not for the better. For example, earlier this week Stanford’s The Bootleg reported on the results of the NCAA 2010 Graduation Success Rate Report.
For UA, the numbers are nothing short of shameful.
Arizona has fallen into last place. Remarkably, and a fact we would hope Arizona taxpayers would note, U-of-A! also has the worst graduation rate of all major basketball programs and the second-worst graduation rate of all BCS football programs.
Yes, you read that correctly: UA has the worst basketball graduation rate of any major basketball program in the nation, as well as the second-worst graduation rate of all BCS football programs. Worst, and second worst, in the nation.
The “University” of Arizona pulled off an appalling, but impressive hat trick, with the Pac 10’s worst graduation rate in football, basketball, and baseball.
And after reading those stats, it’s not surprising to guess what’s coming next.
Arizona’s graduation rate of 65% for all athletes is the worst for any major sports program.
Yikes—the worst major sports program in the country for graduating student athletes?!! Wow. Even this diehard ASU fan is embarrassed for them in earning such a distinction.
Now, ASU still has room for improvement in the athlete graduation department, but it’s certainly not competing for dead last in the country. In fact, ASU has made some good progress and been a national leader in launching programs like Scholar Baller, which has now been adopted by more than 50 universities.
Of course, none of this should be too surprising. ASU’s been making some serious strides in important measures like increasing freshman retention rates and decreasing loan default rates, even while growing as fast as Phoenix. Arizona, on the other hand, seems to be sitting on its hands and watching those same numbers move in the wrong direction.
That’s probably why UA’s own student paper, the Daily Wildcat, had this say last fall (emphasis mine):
According to a recent poll in The Wall Street Journal, Arizona State University ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to U.S. companies’ desire to hire graduates. The UA did not even crack the top 25.
The UA has spent years pooh-poohing its neighbor to the north, certain in its status as the academically stronger and more rigorous Arizona university. But increasingly over the past several years, that attitude simply doesn’t match up with the facts.
I’m of the opinion that arguing about whether one university is academically better as a whole than another is a futile exercise unless one of those institutions is either among the very best, or among the very worst in the nation. Otherwise, it’s like arguing which color is better: it all depends on how you measure it and the circumstances of the situation you’re in; what works for one student might not work for another. In general, college is like any other learning opportunity: you get out what you put in.
But one thing is clear—the tired old smack talk that UA sports fans often resort to in denigrating ASU’s academics just no longer applies. And that’s really got to hurt for UA faithful to acknowledge.
As the Daily Wildcat article explained, “Painful as it is to say, ASU must be doing something right.” UA clearly isn’t.