Boivin: Fans shouldn’t overreact to ASU football coaching defections –

8 months ago Comments Off on Boivin: Fans shouldn’t overreact to ASU football coaching defections –



ASU insider Doug Haller talks about the departure of running backs coach Kodi Burns and the arrival of defensive line coach Joe Seumalo.

For all the changes Arizona State’s football staff has experienced recently, Todd Graham is smiling, upbeat and talking like a man who just downed a carton of energy drinks.

Of course, in front of him on his office desk sits an open Bible with a rosary and cross resting on its pages.

It has been that kind of offseason.

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Six departures from the coaching staff, including one that featured a hire who left after six weeks, have fans wondering if the exodus is a sign of a bigger problem.

The simple answer is “no.” With a caveat.

At least five are making more money. Four are taking jobs considered promotions. When looked at individually, most of the moves make sense.

“I don’t like change. I’ve never had that much change,” Graham said. “But when I look at the people we hired, I feel like we really knocked it out of the park.”

Two coaches followed offensive coordinator Mike Norvell to Memphis after he was named head coach. Tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Chip Long is now the Tigers’ offensive coordinator. Chris Ball, who was co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, will be Memphis’ sole defensive coordinator and have the opportunities to call plays, something he didn’t get to do in Tempe.

Kodi Burns, the running backs coach Graham hired six weeks ago, left to be the co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach at Auburn, where he is expected to at least double his salary.

Recruiting coordinator Patrick Suddes left for a similar position at Auburn, called the director of player personnel, and is expected to receive a salary bump.

Although Graham has done an impressive job in Tempe securing competitive salaries for his coaches – Norvell was the 12th-highest paid assistant in the country last year, according to USA TODAY research – the SEC is in a league of its own when it comes to money. Its head football coaches, for example, made an average of $4.13 million compared to the Pac-12 at $2.99 million in 2015.

The most lateral move belonged to defensive line coach Jackie Shipp, who took the same job at Missouri. His new salary wasn’t announced but his predecessor, Chris Wilson, who was only on the job for a month, was set to make $120,000 more than what Shipp made at ASU.

The other side of the story is that Graham is a demanding coach. He’ll be the first to acknowledge that. Several times, television cameras have caught him giving an earful to an assistant on the sidelines.

RELATED: A look at all the coaching changes at ASU this offseason

When things are going well, high expectations are rewarded with positive results and the demands are easier to handle. In Graham’s first three seasons, ASU won 28 games.

Failure makes the heat less pleasant. A tough coach can have a shorter shelf life with assistants, especially when a team is struggling. In 2015, the Sun Devils went 6-7.

Graham believes the program’s accomplished start came back to bite him.

“I think the success we had the first three years is why people got more opportunity,” Graham said. “People came after them.”

RELATED: Dismissed ASU players allowed to go home until burglary trial

The landscape of the game has changed, too. This high stakes world of college football already has seen 28 head coaching changes from the 2015 season. That means many of the nine assistants of those programs will change, too.

Change comes often. Unlike the NFL, most assistants are on one-year contracts (coordinators typically get two-year deals). With job security an issue, assistants chase the money.

“It’s free market, free agency,” Graham said.

And when head coaches feel things aren’t working, they quickly make changes.

It’s happening everywhere, although most didn’t have as many changes as ASU. At Arizona, all four full-time assistants on defense have change.

And losing six coaches isn’t unprecedented. Wisconsin lost that many after the 2011 season and ended up in the Rose Bowl the next year. One of those who left the Badgers is on ASU’s staff now: assistant DelVaughn Alexander.

Change certainly presents challenges. Players must adjust to new expectations and personalities from their position coaches. New hires must learn new routines, new schemes.

Graham feels good that the hires he made, including bringing in offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, will contribute to a smooth transition.

He also knows college football has changed. The last several years he has kept a database that includes the names of most assistant coaches in the country. He keeps tabs on their efforts and separates the ones he thinks would fit in with ASU’s program.

“It’s hard because even though you want to keep your coaches, you want them to move up,” Graham said. “I don’t want a coach working for me that doesn’t want to be a head coach.

“That’s why it’s so important that we know who we are and that you are constantly being proactive.”

Fans should consider it a plus that two of the coach’s key behind-the-scenes men are still around: Shawn Griswold, the head of sports performance who is around players most, and Tim Cassidy, the senior associate athletic director of football who keeps things running smoothly.

And while mustering enthusiasm has never been a problem for Graham, he sure sounds like a coach who thinks the program is still in a healthy place.

“This is a different deal for me. My wife and I paid off our house, we invested in this project,” he said as he pointed to the construction of Sun Devil Stadium. “I’m 51. I’m never getting another opportunity to be at a place, at the right time, with the right leadership like Dr. Crow and Ray Anderson. It’s not business as usual. There’s unbelievable donor support. I couldn’t go anywhere else in the country and see this.

“This deal that is very personal to me.”

Reach Boivin at and at Listen to her streaming live on “The Brad Cesmat Show” on every Monday at 10:30 a.m.

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