Arizona State's search for a football coach has become the 21st century's "Sound of Silence."
"Fools," said I, "you do not know. Silence like a cancer grows.…"
Paul Simon's lyrics fit, don't they?
One day soon, perhaps this year, the Sun Devils' high command will break its silence and anoint a football coach to replace Dennis Erickson. Given the depressed market, the picked-over, picked-on, picked-apart group of available coaches, it's 50-50 that ASU fans will ultimately prefer the silence.
Every school in the old Pac-10, with the exception of the Oregon Ducks, has whiffed on a football coach in the last 25 years. Not to mention any names, but the Sun Devils lead the league in whiffs: Larry Marmie. Bruce Snyder. Dirk Koetter. And Dennis Erickson. All fired. 0 for 4.
In baseball, that's known as taking the golden sombrero.
In an attempt to assist the triumvirate of Lisa Love, Michael Crow and Steve Patterson in hiring a coach before the 2012 season opener, we offer, for no charge, a Pac-12 manual on What Not To Do in nine easy steps.
• Don't hire the Fit The Image Guy. In 2002, Stanford hired an Ivy League guy, Dartmouth grad and former Dartmouth star Buddy Teevens. Cardinal director of athletics Ted Leland said, "Buddy is committed to the highest standards of academic and athletic performance," perhaps ignoring that Teevens had gone 11-45 as Tulane's head coach. Stanford went 10-23. Teevens was fired.
• Don't hire the Gimmick Offense Guy. In 1991, Oregon State hired Northern Illinois coach Jerry Pettibone, who would run the wishbone offense. The Beavers had led the Pac-10 in passing from 1986 to 1988 yet went 9-23-1. So they wanted the opposite. Pettibone's Beavers led the Pac-10 in rushing from 1992 to 1995 but went 13-52-1. "They've been very patient for 20 years," said Pettibone upon being hired. "I'm confident they will give us time to develop our offense."
• Don't hire the Local Super Bowl Star. In 1997, Cal hired former 49ers Super Bowl safety and Super Bowl assistant coach Tom Holmoe. The Bears, too, wanted the opposite of flamboyant Steve Mariucci, who had jilted the school after one season. Bears defensive back Derrick Gardner told reporters, "Mariucci was like a Ferrari; coach Holmoe is like a Pinto." Holmoe was viewed as the common man, stable and committed. His teams went 16-39.
• Don't hire the Career Good Guy. In 2003, Washington State hired 61-year-old Bill Doba to replace Mike Price. Doba had failed to get the head coaching job at his alma mater, Ball State. Wazzu president Lane Rawlins told reporters, "We had our pick of lots and lots of coaches, but the right one was already on the staff." Cougars AD Jim Sterk defended the hiring by saying, "I slept like a baby last night. I feel very good about who is leading our football program." Doba went 30-29 and left the program in such ruin that his successor, doomed Paul Wulff, went 5-32 in his first three seasons.
• Don't hire the Let's Put The Band Back Together Guy. In 1993, USC hired ex-NFL coach John Robinson for his second stint as the Trojans' head coach. Robinson, who hadn't coached at USC in 12 years, evaluated the roster and told reporters, "There's no lightning. We don't have any difference-makers." The music was off-key in Act II. Robinson went 6-6 and 6-5 in his fourth and fifth seasons and was fired.
• Don't hire the My Blood Runs School Colors Guy. In 1993, Washington hired Jim Lambright, who had either played or coached at the school since 1961 and grew up in nearby Everett, Wash. The Seattle Times wrote, "Lambright is a Husky's Husky." He was unable to maintain the excellence of his predecessor, Don James, and was fired after six seasons upon going 6-6 in 1998.
• Don't hire the Hot Young Assistant Guy. In 2002, UCLA hired former Bruins receiver and NFL assistant Karl Dorrell, who had been offensive coordinator at Washington and Colorado. Bruins AD Dan Guerrero said, "Everyone with whom I spoke held Karl in high regard in the areas of leadership, coaching, relating to players, recruiting and dealing with the media and alumni." After opening 6-7 and 6-6, a Los Angeles columnist began referring to Dorrell as "Dullard." He was fired after going 35-27.
• Don't hire the My Way Or The Highway Guy. Arizona hired intractable John Mackovic in 2001. He had been fired when the Kansas City Chiefs mutinied against him a decade earlier. His Arizona players revolted two years later. On hiring day, UA director of athletics Jim Livengood said: "Everyone in our search was compared to John, and no one was able to measure up. I'm not here to tell you he is a saint, but he is exactly what this football program and university needs." He was fired midway through Year 3 with a 10-18 record.
• Don't hire Mr. Nice Guy. In 1988, ASU hired defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, a thoughtful, gentle man who had been on the scene for ASU's 1987 Rose Bowl. Said Sun Devils AD Charles Harris, "There needs to be a place in college athletics for a man of the character and fiber of Larry Marmie." Harris fired Marmie for going 22-21-1.
The Sun Devils, who haven't gotten a football coaching hire right since Frank Kush in 1958, are again at-bat, wearing a maroon-and-gold sombrero.