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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

December 8, 2011 at 11:55 AM

ASU search appears to be nearing train-wreck status . . .

Arizona State’s search for a football coach to replace Dennis Erickson hit another snag Wednesday when talks broke off with SMU coach June Jones after several national media outlets reported a deal had been all but struck.

This is what happens when you don’t really know how to go after a football coach, and you don’t really know whom you can get.

Now, among the names mentioned are ex-South Florida coach Jim Leavitt, Tennessee defensive coordinator (and former Oregon player) Justin Wilcox and Washington offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto.

The Sun Devils apparently whiffed on Houston’s Kevin Sumlin and Southern Mississippi’s Larry Fedora. A deal with Jones, the former Hawaii coach, was virtually done but Phoenix media reports say there was significant blowback from ASU alums.

“Just had one of the most bizarre endings to a set of productive discussions to bring a client to a new situation,” Jones’ agent, Leigh Steinberg, wrote on his blog without mentioning ASU. “Everything was set, few tweaks left, and the principal decision-maker yanks the deal w [sic] no real explanation.”

You could fairly question who’s making the call at ASU. The athletic director is Lisa Love, but in July, the Sun Devils hired something they call a chief operating officer, former Portland Trail Blazers executive Steve Patterson, and he’s also a key figure. His bio on the ASU website says he oversees facilities, marketing and coordinates with the Sun Devil club.

But the Arizona Republic reported that Patterson is the lead dog in the search — not Love, the athletic director.

(We pause here to think about that one.)

Then there’s the group of 20 former Sun Devil players who met Sunday night, seemingly to air the idea that they’re miffed at not having been asked for their thoughts and to question ASU’s pattern of hiring in the past. In a related development, a tweet from FootballScoop.com said of Cozzetto, “He’s got half the former players supporting him.” Great. What are the other half thinking?

This is usually about the time a school plucks a candidate from the NFL ranks. And who knows, the Sun Devils may hit it right with their ultimate choice, so chancy are the eventual results in hiring.

But right now, that’s about the only good thing you can say for the Sun Devils’ search: They may yet get lucky.

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