Big weekend for ASU football present, and future

Arizona State coach Todd Graham’s “All In” mantra has been co-opted by its broader athletic department.

In keeping with the philosophy that you have to spend money to make money, the program is sending three planes with its traveling party to Dallas for Saturday’s game against Notre Dame instead of the usual one.

The extra two planes? Mostly they’ll be full of upper echelon donors who will no doubt be wined and dined. More importantly, they’ll be solicited. Gently.

ASU isn’t doing this because it’s spendthrifty. It is doing it because it’s what elite programs do to get boosters to open up their checkbooks.

Though there’s no official word on how much the Sun Devils will be spending on the trip, it’s a safe bet the number will be well into the six figures when including travel. The return on investment, however, could be significantly more than that.

Over the years, ASU has done a poor job tapping into its broad alumni base, a group that includes a plethora of multi-millionaires. Instead, the Sun Devils have tended to rely heavily on the same handful of people year after year to do most of the heavy lifting.

That happened again when head football coach Todd Graham thanked longtime elite level donor Steve Butterfield for paying for the Sun Devils’ new so-called “flame” helmets they’ll wear for the first time Saturday. Butterfield, as Graham mentioned previously, also paid for the new uniforms released prior to last season and the overhaul to the football team’s locker room. If it’s not Butterfield, usually it’s one of several others, like Verde Dickey or Bob Hobbs.

a synergistic opportunity perhaps unmatched in the program’s modern post-Frank Kush history

ASU Vice President for Athletics Steve Patterson may be a greenhorn as a leader of such an operation but he’s wise enough to know the department’s longstanding approach was unsustainable.

The program’s need to creatively fund a nine-figure overhaul to aging Sun Devil Stadium provided a great opportunity. It has required building up a fundraising infrastructure and a sense of urgency. That, coupled with the leadership approach of Patterson and his right-hand man, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Communications Rocky Harris, and the hard charging ambition on Graham has led to a synergistic opportunity perhaps unmatched in the program’s modern post-Frank Kush history.

Approximately 175 top Sun Devil boosters and prospective high level donors will get this pitch first-hand in a 5 p.m. Friday event at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as ASU looks to secure an important revenue stream in its stadium overhaul plans.

A day later, the Sun Devils will wear their new helmet, which has been the talk of the state in the last week.

“This right here is about recruiting,” Graham said of the helmet at its unveiling Monday, as he shook it skyward.

It all is. If it’s not about recruiting talent, it’s about recruiting money.

Every once in a while you can win without money. But to do it consistently you need both.

It’s time to see who else is all in.