Scottsdale, Arizona – Not long after Arizona Eliminated in baseball’s inaugural Pac 12 tournament, Willie Blomquist stood outside the bunker of third base and discussed his first season as a coach for his college.
A program that previously stood among the nation’s elite, Arizona State hasn’t made a College World Championship since 2010, the longest drought in the school’s history. Being the No. 8 seed in the Conference Tournament, the Sun Devils lost to the No. 1 seed stanford beat number 4 Oregon Before losing to rival Arizona, she finished her season 26-32. The lack of timely strikes damaged Arizona. As well as the depth of tone.
“We obviously didn’t come out on the right end of this game, but that’s what college baseball is all about,” Blomquist said. “You have guys who leave everything on the field. Mistakes happen here and there, but everyone gives what they got on every field. You can definitely see the guys (and) how interested they are.”
This is not a good time for the three major men’s sports in Arizona. While baseball is rebuilding under Blomquist’s leadership, the football program led by Herm Edwards is still mired in an NFL investigation that commissioned five assistant coaches and more. After consecutive losing seasons, Bobby Hurley’s basketball program is still looking for a pre-pandemic mojo.
This is not to say that athletics in Arizona has faded as a whole. The softball team won the Pac-12 and just finished an impressive season, taking one win less than the Women’s College World Series. The wrestling team placed fourth in the NCAA Championship. Golf, swimming and gymnastics programs are strong. Hockey will soon open a new arena. Women’s basketball has a new trend. There is a lot for fans to cheer about.
But the big three-way conversation. The health of the sports section begins with them. If one suffers, that’s okay. Two struggle, not good. All three of these are struggling and there is chaos in social media. This is where we are.
Fan Poll: Of the three major men’s shows in Arizona, which do you think is the best going forward?
– DougHaller May 28, 2022
Football attracts the most attention because it is the nature of the sport. He is the money maker, the driving force of the university’s pride. The Sun Devils finished 8-5 in 2021, but more was expected. Since December, the program has lost a lot of talent through the transfer portal, including quarterback Jaden Danielsreceiver Ricky PearsallDefensive handling Jermaine lol and the back Eric Gentry.
Arizona is not alone in this regard; Transfer rules and name-and-picture compensation and similarity forced teams across the country to regroup and reload. It’s the new normal. But the uncertainty associated with the NCAA probe added an obstacle that Sparky had struggled to clear. When Edwards first arrived, he won fans over with an unspoken promise of better days. He had a talented midfielder. Young defensive core. Better size up front.
Hope carries a fan base through growing pains, but today that vision is unclear. Three-year plan? It’s hard to see beyond next season. The biggest question in the program does not include New quarterback Emory Jones Or any player on the field. It’s simply, “How long will Edwards be around?” This does not inspire much hope.
“I’m disappointed that they let everything get away from them sort of,” said Nathan Laddock, the defensive linebacker who starred in The Sun Devils from 1987 to 1990. ) or not, it does not matter. And they may be. And maybe they were. It does not correct it. And it’s not a great situation to be in.”
For the record: in a last appearance On the podcast “Talk about the Devils,” Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson said Arizona State has outgrown staff moves and Edwards is not in trouble. “There is no doubt in our minds that we have the right coach and the right staff going forward,” he said. “(We) don’t ever second guess our decision (to keep Edwards). We have the information we have and we are absolutely confident we are going in the right direction. Herm is our leader and he will be our leader.”
Basketball is coming off a frustrating season for various reasons. Arizona State struggled at first, rallied late, and then poised to advance in the Pac-12 Championships. In Las Vegas, the Sun Devils led Stanford by 14 in the opening round three minutes from the end of the game. They lost 71-70 To finish season 14-17, the program’s second losing season in a row.
Hurley, who is on contract until 2024, has an age range of 118-100 across seven seasons. Before COVID-19 cut the 2020 season short, placing Arizona State in a third consecutive NCAA Championship, a feat unmatched since the JFK administration. But winter 2020 feels like a long time ago.
Part of this is just the nature of basketball in Arizona. Since program legend Ned Wulk left after the 1981-82 season, the Sun Devils have played only seven NCAA championships. Inconsistency is the theme of the program here, and the pandemic has complicated matters. Is Arizona State the bad team from 2018-2020 or a program that has fallen behind in the past two seasons under difficult circumstances? hard to say.
Home Court, forever on the athletics department’s to-do list, isn’t helping. Entering the Desert Financial Arena is like walking into the ’70s without a disco ball. This is not breaking news. Prior to his first season, a reporter asked then-Arizona State coach Bill Freder about the Desert Financial Arena, then known as the hub of college activity. “Sure, it looks great on the surface,” Frieder said. Then he listed everything that needed an upgrade. “This place is ten years behind,” Frieder said. “Die. But we’ll make it turn around.”
This was in 1989! The program still hasn’t caught up with it.
This brings us back to baseball, once considered the gem of athletics in Arizona, and owners of five National Championships. With Blomquist in place, it may be in the best spot for Arizona’s hookup programs—a fresh start, a new hope—but it also has the longest climb. Strong imitation can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. While the coaching staff may measure growth in one way, the fan base may do so in another.
The good news: Arizona State did well in the Pac-12 Championships. The losers of four in a row enter the event with a score of 37-14, the Sun Devils would have collapsed. Instead, they advanced in the seventh inning of all three championship matches. They competed. They were aggressive. This is a start.
Out of the dugout after Friday’s loss, Blomquist looked like a man who understood the way ahead. This season, he said, the Sun Devils have looked close to competing at times and not so close at others. Players are credited with fighting through injuries and adversity. He expressed the need for a deeper thrust and better defense. But the end result was clear. It’s not a panic city, but we have to get better,” Blomquist said.
He is not alone.
(Top image: Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)