Down Duel Decade

August 13, 2007

Time flies, even when you’re not having fun.

A few weeks ago we lamented the fact that our basketball national championship is now a full decade old. Not only is it a reminder of the sneaky-fast aging process, but it means we can no longer include it in any “last ten years” discussions. Interestingly enough, 1996-1997 also featured Arizona State’s most recent team of extreme glory, the ’96 football squad that came within a last-minute touchdown of a perfect season and a national championship. So with both huge accomplishments falling off the ledger, who has been better the Last Ten Years?

Here are the football numbers:

Overall 53-64 (.453) 67-54 (.554)
Pac-10 29-52 (.358) 39-42 (.481)
Bowls 2-0 (1.000) 3-4 (.429)
Rivalry 4 6

They have certainly been better than we have, but there’s not a whole lot to get excited about on either side. The biggest discrepancy is their 7-2 bowl advantage, but even there it still only got them one more bowl win than the Cats.

Arizona has the best single season in the past decade with our school-record 12-1 campaign in 1998. But the Cats also posted the worst season of either school with the 2-10 last-place stinkfest in 2003. ASU produced two equally-best years with both 1997 and 2004 resulting in a 9-3 record, a third-place tie in the Pac-10, a Sun Bowl victory, and a loss to Arizona. The Devils’ worst showing was in 2001 when they went 4-7, finished ninth in the league and – gasp – lost to John Mackovic.

Speaking of the Devil, the end of the 2006 season also allows us to close the book on both Mackovic and Dirk Koetter. The facts:

Mack Koet
Years 2.5 6
Overall 10-18 (.357) 40-34 (.541)
Pac-10 3-14 (.176) 21-28 (.429)
Bowls 0 2-2 (.500)
Mutinies 1 0
Rivalry 1-2 (.333) 4-2 (.667)

These guys will always be linked in this state because they were hired at the same time and, yes, ASU did make the better hire. The Devils won that contest but since they ended up firing their guy too it was more like losing-a-little-less. And since neither program has returned to the heights of either Tomey or Snyder, the race continues.

What stands out from the numbers is Koetter took the “It doesn’t matter as long as you beat your rival” strategy a bit too literally. Take out the Arizona games and Dirk only had a .395 winning percentage against the rest of the league. Add to that his QB koet-back which led to his Sun Bowl hero roenning to Nebraska and it’s no surprise ASU fans were screaming, “You soek!”

We’ve talked at length about the UA basketball program being down, but the following numbers show there are different degrees of down. Their down will cheer you up if you’re down. You down?

Overall 249-82 (.752) 145-156 (.482)
Pac-10 137-43 (.761) 65-115 (.361)
NCAAs 18-10 (.643) 1-1 (.500)
Rivalry 20 1

We have the only league championship (times four) and the only Final Four appearance. ASU’s best season (20-12, 4th place in the Pac-10, one NCAA win) looks almost identical to the three years that tie for Arizona’s worst (2004, 2006 and 2007). That’s all you need to know about this “rivalry.”

Baseball stacks up in this fashion:

Overall 335-239-1 (.584) 421-193-1 (.686)
Pac-10 123-123 (.500) 153-92 (.624)
CWS 1 3
Rivalry 17 30

This one is Tempe’s biggest win. It’s interesting that the UA has been exactly .500 in Pac-10 play over the past decade. But that’s what happens when half of your seasons are either 12-12 or 13-11. Andy Lopez has made great strides for the Cats but ASU’s Murphy answered with his best Pac-10 season ever this past year so the Devils continue to lead.

As far as leadership goes it took three head coaching changes and bringing in a very expensive assistant but most Wildcat fans believe we finally have the answer in all three men’s team sports. ASU has had a lot of stability (and success) in baseball but in the two revenue sports they’ve gone through five coaches in ten years (don’t forget Don Newman). If you back up one year to include Frieder and move a year ahead to include Erickson they’re working on seven coaches in a dozen years. Since their current head men have exactly one year of tenure between them, the jury’s still out on which way their athletic needle is pointing.

But it can’t be denied the Sun Devils have been better than the Cats over the past ten years. Arizona made bigger short-term national splashes in the big-money sports with a top-4 football season and a top-2 basketball season, but if there was a trophy for Best Overall Performance In The State Of Arizona In The Men’s Triple Crown From 1997-1998 To 2006-2007 you would have to give it to ASU.

Until we start Luteing them again.

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