ASU head football coach Todd Graham came to the Downtown campus on Tuesday to eat lunch with students and faculty members.
Accompanied by quarterback Michael Eubank, defensive backs Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor, members of the Sun Devil Dance team and other members of Sun Devil Athletics, Graham ate with students, signed autographs and took pictures with fans in the Taylor Place dining hall.
Graham is entering his first season as the Sun Devils’ football coach. His departure from University of Pittsburgh after just one season drew criticism from local and national media.
Since taking the job at ASU, Graham has instilled transparency within the program. He has made all the team’s practices open to the public, including what the team is working on and who is leading the football team.
“(The team) needs to earn the trust of the people supporting our program. Respect is given, but trust is earned. I can tell you this: We are working really hard to put a team on the field you will be proud that’s going to represent you with class,” Graham said when addressing the lunch attendants.
Some of the students and faculty appreciated having the coach and players come to the Downtown campus and the visit will affect how they support the team in the future.
“The fact that you met the coach and met the players and see what they are all about just adds extra emphasis into supporting them,” said Chris Garay, a journalism junior.
Graham went to ASU’s West campus yesterday and also plans to visit the Polytechnic campus. He said having the support of all the campuses will benefit the university.
Graham has focused on engaging the fans by making team events open to the public, which past coaches have been criticized for not doing effectively.
“I didn’t get this energy from (former head football coach Dennis Erickson) last year,” said Mogos Gabre, an exercise and wellness freshman. “I feel like the energy he is giving out is going to make more people go into the student section get the crowd pumped and ultimately make ASU play better.”
Graham sat with a table of students that included Gabre. The students and Graham talked about football, Graham’s family and life on the Downtown campus.
“We talked about ASU’s plans for next year. He wants to expand fan interaction with the team, have social days and get to know the players and coaches,” Gabre said. “He wants to open up ASU’s interaction with the team.”
This sort of transparency and accessibility has occurred on the field as well. ASU’s redshirt freshman quarterback Eubank said events like these are one of many changes that have occurred since Graham has replaced Erickson. Eubank said the culture change has benefited the team already.
“It’s going to help us greatly,” Eubank said. “It isn’t a bunch of individuals, it’s one team. It was a culture shock and it’s definitely something we all needed. It’s something that’s going to bring us closer and help us in the long run.”
Graham said the change will bring more support to the football team and unify the university.
“Our objective is we are one university. This is Arizona State no matter what campus you’re at of the four different campuses. There are 1.5 million fans in this Valley and there are fans all over the country and I want to reach out to every one of them because we want to do something different, something unique,” Graham said.
The ASU football team begins practice March 13, and in the spirit of transparency, Graham has made all practices open to the public.
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