Last time, it was Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham taking over prior to the 2012 season, both of whom had plenty of experience as head coaches and were on fairly equal footing.
This time, it’s a very different story.
ASU went with the bold strategy of hiring the athletic director’s ex-client who hasn’t coached in college in 30 years and is having a hard time grasping what goes into recruiting, while Arizona went with someone who spent the last six years as a head coach in the nation’s best division.
Kevin Sumlin and Herm Edwards have somewhat of a relationship from past dealings, but Sumlin’s description of Edwards’ recent work is pretty hilarious.
“I had him come speak to our football team two years ago and he was a guy that I thought would come in and energize,” Sumlin explained at his introductory press conference. “He did a great job as an outside speaker.”
Sumlin has also done internships with Edwards when the ex-NFL coach was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So the two know each other a little bit, a position that Sumlin is certainly familiar with.
Back in his days at Houston, Sumlin lived down the street from Rice head coach David Bailiff. And while maybe Houston/Rice isn’t on the same level as Arizona/ASU, there was definitely some tension that week between the head coach friends:
“David Bailiff and I were really close as assistant coaches and the Houston/Rice deal you’re playing for a trophy and we lived in the same neighborhood. Our kids played together, and we were friends 51 weeks out of the year. Literally blocks away we lived, we’d give each other rides sometimes and do all that stuff with our kids but we wouldn’t let our kids play with each other’s kids during that week because it’s a rivalry, right? We didn’t even talk and we talked all the time. We’d be in each other’s backyards because as a head coach sometimes it’s tough to go to different places, but that week that’s just what it is.”
Even though it would be kind of odd if Sumlin lived blocks away from Edwards, he knows that if they do develop a friendship, it will be put on hold Thanksgiving week every year.
“I don’t know that I have that kind of relationship with Herm, but I know rivalry week I will have that kind of relationship with him,” said Sumlin. “Anyone looks forward to a rivalry, right? That’s why they call ‘em rivalry games. So both sides are excited.”
At a place like Arizona where the rivalry supersedes just about everything else, Sumlin will probably win over the fans in this aspect of the program as well.
The sun is shining a little brighter in Tucson than in Tempe these days, and that’s never a bad thing.