Average Sports University

June 5, 2006

I've heard a lot of ridiculous statements in my time: It's not about the money. It's not you; it's me. Diet Dr. Pepper tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper.

But the most ridiculous statement of all has to be: "You're the basketball school and we're the football school." As to who said it, I'll give you a hint: Arizona State Sun Devil fans.

I have no problem with the UA being called a basketball school. Is Wildcat basketball really, really good? Yes. Is our hoops program better than our football program at the moment? Yes. Mike Stoops is working very hard to change that, but reality is what it is.

It's the "ASU is the football school in the state" comment that has no link to reality. I touched on it last year but I wanted to examine the subject in greater detail now that we have more time. Consider this a case of Devil repellant to help you deal with confused co-workers, friends and loved ones. We just can't let our children grow up in a world of lies.

Let's get one thing straight up front: ASU used to be really good at football. No one is denying that Arizona State was exceptional in the 1960s and '70s. Coach Frank Kush was the WAC daddy.

(There is no truth to the rumor however that the Devils applied for admittance into the NFL in an effort to reduce player payroll.)

Just like my dominance of tee-ball didn't translate into a Major League career, ASU hasn't done nearly as well since the move to the Pacific-10 conference before the 1978 season. Take a look at this list from 28 seasons of Pac-10 play:

Pac-10 Conference Wins
1. USC 145
2. Wash 142
3. UCLA 134
4. Ore 114
5. ASU 110
6. ARIZ 105
7. Stan 98
8. WSU 92
9. Cal 83
10. OSU 46

How is the self-proclaimed "football school" only 5th on the list of wins in Pac-10 games? Even more puzzling: How are they only 5 whole wins ahead of a lowly "basketball school"?

(Another interesting bit of trivia is the fact that Washington was the winningest Pac-10 team until this past season, and it took USC going 7-1, 7-1, 8-0 and 8-0 in the last four years compared to UW's 4-4, 4-4, 0-8 and 1-7 to pull it off. Who says you can't learn anything during summer vacation?)

ASU's average placement on the conference wins list isn't an isolated incident. Here are some more rankings:

Pac-10 Championships (1978-2005)
1. USC 11
2t. UCLA 7
2t. Wash 7
4. Ore 3
5t. ASU 2
5t. Stan 2
5t. WSU 2
8t. ARIZ 1
8t. OSU 1
10. Cal 0

Bowl Games in the Pac-10 Era
1. USC 22
2. Wash 21
3. UCLA 19
4t. ASU 12
4t. Ore 12
6. ARIZ 10
7t. Cal 8
7t. Stan 8
7t. WSU 8
10. OSU 6

Bowl Wins in the Pac-10 Era
1t. Wash 11
1t. UCLA 11
3 USC 10
4 ASU 7
5t. ARIZ 5
5t. Cal 5
5t. Ore 5
5t. WSU 5
9t. OSU 3
9t. Stan 3

The same three names are at the top of each of these lists: Southern California, the U. of Washington, and California-Los Angeles. Those are the three true football schools in the Pac-10. ASU has certainly been better than its fellow States, but it is clearly in a second tier along with schools like Oregon and, that's right, the University of Arizona.

But what about Sun Devil fans' beloved Rose Bowl appearances? Surely that list will demonstrate ASU dominance. Behold:

Rose Bowls (1978-2005)
1. USC 9
2. Wash 6
3. UCLA 5
4t. ASU 2
4t. WSU 2
6t. Ore 1
6t. Stan 1
8t. ARIZ 0
8t. Cal 0
8t. OSU 0

Nope, barely in the upper division and still significantly behind the top three. What about adding the Fiesta, Orange, and Sugar, the other three big bowls that currently make up the BCS?

Current-BCS Bowl Appearances (1978-2005)
1. USC 12
2t. UCLA 7
2t. Wash 7
4 ASU 3
5t ARIZ 2
5t. Ore 2
5t. WSU 2
8t. Stan 1
8t. OSU 1
10. Cal 0

Hmm…do they give out medals for 4th place? And when you look at this list it gets much worse:

Year of Last Current-BCS Bowl Win
1. USC 2004
2. Ore 2001
3t. OSU 2000
3t. Wash 2000
5. ARIZ 1993
6. ASU 1986
7. UCLA 1985

(After looking at this list you go, "OK, maybe there's only one football school in this league, with Oregon as an up-and-comer, Washington as a has-been, ASU as a dreamer, and UCLA as big-time chokers.")

With all of this raining on the Sun Devil parade I almost hate to bring up basketball, but as a servant of the truth I really have no choice.

Pac-10 Conference Wins (1978-2005)
1. ARIZ 346
2. UCLA 333
3. Stan 277
4. USC 245
5. Cal 236
6. OSU 234
7. Wash 233
8. ASU 227
9. Ore 210
10. WSU 179

Pac-10 Championships (1978-2005)
1. ARIZ 11
2. UCLA 8
3. OSU 5
4. Stan 4
5. Wash 2
6t. Ore 1
6t. USC 1
8t. ASU 0
8t Cal 0
8t. WSU 0

[Commentary in this section has been removed at the insistence of People for the Ethical Treatment of Cartoonish Demons.]

Returning to football, ASU's supposed source of bravado, does the above research indicate that Arizona State has performed better than Arizona during the Pac-10 era? Yes. But it's a lot closer than they want us to think, and they also have that problem of not being able to consistently beat us on the actual playing field (11-16-1 if you're keeping score at home).

So what have we learned? If we turn this discussion into a pseudo-math equation it looks like this:

ASU Basketball is definitely < UA Football which is slightly < ASU Football which is absolutely, positively, astrodisgustingly < UA Basketball.

Ergo: Average + Great > Average + Bad. Class dismissed.

It didn't have to be this way. Arizona State got off to a nice start in the early years of the Pac-10. Can you believe ASU hoops put up 15-3 and 16-2 conference records in 1980 and 1981? And I thought the only thing strange from the '80s were the haircuts.

However, the good times in Tempe went the way of feathered bangs and jheri curls, and as a result we really can't blame Devil fans for choosing a delusional existence over dealing with the depression caused by three decades of simply being average. All the mediocrity just has to leave a bad taste in the mouth of Sun Devil fans.

A taste even worse than Diet Dr. Pepper.

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