The work never stops for college football programs, especially in the month of August.
Prepping for the “big show” in September and beyond can be all-consuming. Making sure everything is ironed out on the field is crucial.
But so is the bond a team shares. The culture that blooms in the fall starts in the spring. There’s a reason that Utah always finds themselves toward the top of Pac-12 standings despite bigger programs with more extensive NIL collectives can bring in prospects with more stars and transfers with lengthier resumés. They know who they are and find the players that could fold into that and build it up.
In an offseason overhaul at the coach and player level, new ASU head coach Kenny Dillingham has repeated the phrase many times: Culture wins.
The work is happening on the field, but the interpersonal connection needs to happen, and it’s an even higher priority with so many newcomers. That’s why getting back to Camp Tontozona was so important to Dillingham. Getting away from cell service and the hustle and bustle of Tempe can help these players connect on a deeper level even if it’s inconvenient or potentially take away the Devils top-notch weight room or multi-field practice setup back home.
After being up there with the team, the connections seem to be growing within the program. Will it lead to immediate wins? Even Dillingham is doubtful of that. But it’s getting the snowball rolling that this buy-in is what is expected when coming to Arizona State. That this is a group that needs to be close to thrive in this Pac-12 chapter and beyond.
As the Sun Devils roll down the mountain back to Tempe, it seems like they accomplished that mission.