TEMPE – I was prepared to say we’ve seen the last of Kevin Sumlin. All this week that had been the case. We’d seen uninspiring football from the University of Arizona for the last two months. If that didn’t change here at Sun Devil Stadium it would have been an easy write.
Well, that changed midway through the game despite Arizona’s eventual 24-14 loss to Arizona State. And not that anything happened or didn’t happen but it made complete sense that Sumlin would be back, even if Arizona was headed to its third consecutive loss to the Sun Devils and, um, Arizona’s seventh consecutive loss.
It was confirmed when the clock changed from Saturday to Sunday – and about two minutes after Sumlin came down from the post-game podium – when UA athletic Director Dave Heeke said he wanted to make it “real clear” Sumlin was his guy and he’d get another year.
“As we embark on year three of this re-build program coach Sumlin is our head football coach,” Heeke told assembled reporters after Sumlin spent about 10 minutes dissecting and explaining yet another loss. “We’re not where we want to be; this is not where we want to be at this point, but we’re committed to the process, moving this thing forward into year three.”
A priority will be getting a defensive coordinator and a host of defensive coaches. Player development will be key. Of course, it must be, given what the product has come to the last two years. Figure last year UA finished 5-7 overall and this year it was 4-8.
Heeke said he is “looking forward to year three as we continue to rebuild the program.”
Heeke reiterated his focus is on moving forward and didn’t speculate on what if the same results occur next season.
Heeke said letting his feelings be known now was important because he needed to put it out there. “It’s incredibly important,” he said.
“We’re committed to this process; we want to get the right people on board and coaches in the room and continue to build through recruiting,” Heeke said. “We have no reason not to be committed to coach Sumlin and the process.”
When asked if he was disappointed in the season, he said, “it’s not where we wanted to be. You’ve head Kevin say that; you’ve heard players say that. This is not what we planned to do. But it is what it is. We got to keep pushing through and get to that next (level).”
Sumlin said he’ll head out to recruit on Sunday and make it a priority. He does understand UA fan’s frustration given the results. But fans must understand there’s a lot of work that is being done.
“Is it frustrating? Yes,’” Sumlin said. “But, we’ve got to trust the process. We have a process in place that I believe in and the players believe in.”
Sumlin said the team must execute better and things must get fixed.
“And that’s my job to fix them,” Sumlin said. “I know fans are frustrated and believe me we’re frustrated. But the way you handle these situations is important. How you respond is going to be extremely important.”
Well, you’re on the clock and year three officially starts now.