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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 20, 2006

ASU hopes to smell roses soon

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

"The winner of the Pac-10 Conference plays in the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is the goal for Sun Devil football. No one should approach me about this (football head coaching) job if they don't understand that ..."

Lisa Love, Arizona State athletic director, when she announced a coaching change last month.

On a lanai overlooking Waikiki Beach yesterday, Arizona State safety Josh Barrett and tight end Zach Miller marveled about the team's first 24 hours in Hawai'i and reveled in the pleasure of being here.

In the process of saying how happy the Sun Devils are to be in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, they used the word "great" five times in less than two minutes.

But they know more was expected this year. And last year.

Expectations and greatness at ASU football are measured in trips to Pasadena and to look at the program in recent years is to wonder why the Sun Devils only play in a New Year's bowl game every decade or so. To catalogue what the Sun Devils have going for them in talent and support is to also scratch your head over how they go to bowls in El Paso, Texas, Honolulu, San Diego ... but hardly Pasadena.

When Hawai'i coach June Jones said, "I look at their tapes and I think they're the best football team we're gonna play this year," he was not just blowing the usual coaches' smokescreen before Sunday's meeting at Aloha Stadium. These guys can be good, even with the injuries. Better, certainly, than back-to-back 7-5 records and fourth- and fifth-place ties in the Pac-10 would suggest.

That ASU is almost 10 years removed from its last Rose Bowl or even a runner-up finish is why, for the second consecutive appearance in a bowl game here, the Sun Devils are doing it with a coach on the way out. Dirk Koetter, who took over when his predecessor, Bruce Snyder, finished out the 2000 Aloha Bowl, wraps up his tenure Sunday, being replaced by Dennis Erickson.

ASU would seem to have everything a Pac-10 title contender should have: well-heeled support, a winning tradition, a large population base, good facilities and an attractive campus. You know they have the money after anteing up $2.85 million to buy out the final three years of Koetter's contract plus his assistants and the millions they will spend on his successor.

Ask Barrett what he would have said about UH back in September and he recalls thinking of the Warriors as a Western Athletic Conference championship contender, which they turned out to be up to the final game.

As for his own team, Barrett said: "One of the things I would have said is that we have the leadership, the coaching staff to do a lot of big things and if we don't get to the Rose Bowl or have the opportunity where we're finishing 1 or 2 in the conference it is a disappointment."

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.