Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 11/28/11
TEMPE, Ariz. Lisa Love spoke to reporters in a small office in Arizona States media relations department Monday, an awkward setting befitting an awkward time in the athletic directors 6-year Tempe tenure. Five years ago, I didnt think I would be facing the circumstances that were facing today, Love said a few hours after firing football coach Dennis Erickson. But I do so with great clarity and focus on the forward inertia at Arizona State. Despite not having been in a bowl game for the past three years and despite the difficult finish that we had in November, we are actually, competitively, in a healthier and stronger position than we have been in a very, very long time. The competitive platform were on right now is absolutely set for someone and this team to launch. Thats the message Arizona State is selling to potential coaching candidates in the wake of Ericksons dismissal after a four-game losing streak and another 6-6 season amid great expectations. Love lauded the improved talent that Erickson has amassed for the future. She also noted an uptick in fan interest, the expected revenue increase when the Pac-12 Networks launch in August and the successful rebranding of the program, complete with new uniforms, as reasons ASU is primed for success. But completing the sale to candidates wont be as simple as the pitch. With a glut of college vacancies created by what some are calling Black Sunday, ASU must compete for candidates with the likes of UCLA, North Carolina, Illinois, Mississippi and Kansas, with more sure to follow. At least a couple of those posts are more attractive than Tempe, and if it comes to a bidding war, ASU may have trouble competing with the Bruins or Tar Heels. Theres a great fiscal consciousness that goes along with running a college athletics program, Love said. Lets face it, weve faced some very challenging economic times over the course of the last five years. No ones obtuse to that fact. Multiple sources at ASU have indicated to FOXSportsArizona.com that University of Houston coach Kevin Sumlin is near the top of Loves wish list, but Love said she has multiple names names she started compiling long before Ericksons dismissal to plan for all contingencies. And she knows money is a factor. To say we couldnt hire exceptionally well without spending all our costs in that direction is, I think, nave, she said. Love said there is no timeline on hiring a coach other than as quickly as possible. She said the fear of losing candidates or recruits to other programs will not accelerate the process, but the department is working feverishly to maintain the strong recruiting class Erickson attracted for next season. I like our competitive position a lot, she said. We are not starting from ground zero. I cannot emphasize that enough. We are in a better place to compete at a higher level very fast. As for the profile of her next hire and perhaps her last if she doesnt get it right Love said an ability to connect with the community and a fundamentals-based coaching approach with innovation would be requirements. Head coaching experience would be a major plus but would not preclude hiring a hot-shot coordinator. There are many out there that youve seen make a move from a coordinator position into a head coaching position at various significant BCS institutions and did it beautifully, Love said. But obviously, the benefit of showing your worth and your ware as being the face of the program and dealing with everything you work with as a head coach would be incredibly beneficial make it easier. It didnt make it any easier at ASU for Erickson, who was unavailable for comment Monday. Love said missing out on a 2010 bowl game with a talented team and then losing the final four games of the regular season were the biggest marks against Erickson, but Love would have had concerns even if the Sun Devils had played their way into the Pac-12 title game in the final week. Still, she insisted she and president Michael Crow like the direction of the program. I dont think its hard to look at a win-loss record and easily label something as 'failure to meet objective,'" she said. Thats an easy thing to do, but what I would ask is to take a deeper dive into the substance of the program. A dive Love hopes her top coaching choices will find worthwhile.
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