Patterson sets high bar for ASU programs

Published Apr. 10, 2012 3:55 p.m. ET

Continuing the Arizona State athletic department's recent efforts to be more active and involved in the community, newly installed athletics director Steve Patterson last week took some time to speak directly with ASU fans.

As ASU radio broadcaster Tim Healey moderated, Patterson spent an hour taking questions from season-ticket holders in the department's latest "Fan Forum" call. New football coach Todd Graham and basketball coach Herb Sendek participated recently in similar calls.

ASU announced March 28 that Patterson would be promoted to athletic director, replacing Lisa Love, who had held the position for nearly seven years. Patterson wasted no time in laying out ambitious plans and goals for the athletics programs. Here's a look at some of the highlights from his chat with fans.

Graham has helped generate considerable buzz since his hiring via his aggressive efforts to make himself visible in the community and his ambitious goals for the program.

Patterson, who had a hand in bringing Graham to ASU from Pittsburgh, clearly shares Graham's vision for the program and expects the coach to bring regular success to Tempe.

"You know Todd's been very clear about his objective and we've been very clear about our expectations and that is, in the long run we are a top 25 ranked team," Patterson said. "We expect to be winning the (Pac-12) South (division) probably three out of the five years that he coaches here, and we want to be challenging for the Rose Bowl championship on a regular basis."

While Patterson will leave the coaching to Graham, facilities are more under his jurisdiction. ASU last week unveiled plans for a renovated Sun Devil Stadium. The announcement was the first major move under Patterson and one he believes is long over due.

"If it were a computer, it'd be a 1950s to 1970s computer," Patterson said of the stadium. "We look out at the horizon and in the Pac-12 alone we've had almost a billion, two billion, three worth of construction to football stadiums over the past ten years, and one of the few buildings that hasn't been renovated in the Pac-12 is Sun Devil Stadium."

Patterson also addressed outdated facilities when asked about the football program's possible return to Camp Tontozona near Payson for fall practice. There's been considerable buzz about a return to the tradition that ended in 2008 when ASU began using the Verde Dickey Dome indoor practice facility in Tempe.

ASU has remained open to the idea and even sent a group that included Patterson and Graham to evaluate the condition of Tontozona, but funding for necessary upgrades remains the primary obstacle. Patterson said if the funding comes together, the team could spend a few days there this fall.

"We'd like to go back to Tontozona, and Coach Graham is interested in trying to do that," Patterson said. "Quite frankly we need a number of people that said they were interested in helping make that happen, that were interested in raising the funds to help us get back up there."

In particular, Patterson said, Tontozona requires infrastructure and technology upgrades, such as Internet access and video resources. There's also the matter of funding the logistical aspects of the trip.

The men's basketball program has also been a hot topic of late, but for different reasons than football. After a 21-loss season, the third straight without an NCAA Tournament appearance, fans began to question why coach Herb Sendek was given a contract extension under Love.

Patterson said he and Sendek have had a number of conversations about the future of the program and acknowledged its performance has not met expectations. He commended Sendek for admitting to some mistakes and gave the coach of six years his backing.

"He was on the phone last week owning up to the deficiencies he's had in the past, but I think he's the right kind of guy to build the program we want, a clean program, one that graduates our students and one that we can be proud of in the long run," Patterson said. "He's had a lot of 20 (-win) years in college basketball, and I'm looking forward to him getting back to that level."

As for the epidemic of transfers, Patterson said the trend must change but again credited Sendek for taking the blame for recruiting mistakes and being honest with players who had unrealistic expectations about playing time.

"We look in the past and there were probably some guys that were mistakes, there were some guys that were reaches, and then there are guys that have left for reasons that really have nothing to do with the basketball program here," Patterson said. "So while I don't think that the impression has been great, it's something that Herb and the staff have been working hard on and they will address and will be a better basketball program for it."

Click here for a complete transcript of Patterson's remarks