Kenny Dillingham named Arizona State football coach
The Arizona State Sun Devils introduced Kenny Dillingham as the university's next head football coach during a press conference early Sunday.
His hire is pending approval by the Arizona Board of Regents.
He is the 26th head football coach in school history. At 32, he is also the youngest head football coach at a Power 5 school. He is the first graduate of Arizona State to take the coaching reins.
"This is literally home. Home,'' he said during the press conference, fighting back tears.
Dillingham on Saturday completed his first regular season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Oregon Ducks under Dan Lanning. He is viewed as one of the most promising young coaches in the country. The Ducks, who finished their regular season schedule with a 38-34 loss to Oregon State Saturday afternoon, rank in the top five nationally in multiple offensive categories.
But on Sunday, it was all about Arizona State and looking forward:
"We need everything this Valley has all in. Because I am,'' he said.
In a press release announcing the hire earlier, Dillingham said: "This is a special place to myself and my wife who is also a graduate. I truly believe the team we will build here is one that the state of Arizona and all Sun Devils can rally behind and be proud of as it will take everyone in the valley to help this program achieve the level of success it is due. I am excited to get to work and promise no one will work harder than the staff we will put together."
The Ducks are third in total offense (511.2 ypg), fourth in scoring offense (40.2 ppg) and fifth in first downs (296). In addition they are 12th in rushing offense (22.9 ypg) and 18th in passing offense (288.3 ypg), ignited by quarterback Bo Nix.
The move comes as no surprise as Dillingham had been the rumored frontrunner for the position that Shaun Aguano held on an interim basis after the departure of Herm Edwards after the third game of the season.
It makes sense for many reasons. Dillingham is a native of Scottsdale who excelled and later coached at Chaparral High School.
His ties to ASU run deep. He graduated from ASU in 2012 with a degree in business/economics and started out as a graduate assistant under Edwards' predecessor Todd Graham, where he worked alongside then-coordinator Mike Norvell, whom he followed to Memphis (2016-2018). Dillingham also has had stops at both Florida State (2019-2021) and Auburn (2019).
Making the move early allows ASU to get ahead of some other schools also in need of a coach. It also might prevent some players from jumping ship were they to head into the offseason not knowing who the new coach would be.
In addition, Dec. 21 is the early signing day for high school football players. The Sun Devils currently have eight commitments and having a coach in place could help prevent other schools from poaching those athletes had there still been questions as to Edwards' permanent successor.
Edwards was 26-20 in his tenure with three bowl appearances, after taking the position in December 2017. A 30-21 home loss to Eastern Michigan sealed his fate this season. Athletic Director Ray Anderson made the announcement of a coaching change the next day, handing the reins to Aguano, who has served as running backs coach the last four years.
The team was 2-7 in Aguano's short stint as the interim head coach. The Sun Devils ended a disappointing season with a 38-35 loss to rival Arizona on Friday at Arizona Stadium. Aguano was asked after the game about his future and didn't rule out any possibilities, including remaining on the staff under a new coach although he conceded that would be up to the school administration and the new head coach.
Aguano was asked last month what qualifications he'd like to see in the next head coach and Dillingham seems to fit that narrative. Aguano said knowing the landscape of the school and the community would facilitate the transition, which likely would take longer if an outsider were to have to come in and learn it on the fly.
“The continuity, the passion for Arizona State football. It's hard for somebody to come from the outside that has no idea what Arizona State football means to people," he said. "I think that's the No. 1, especially in this transition in understanding what type of recruited athletes that we want here, to build a program that is disciplined and held accountable, and put on a product that is tough, that never quits. Those are the type of things that, from a criteria standpoint, that I would want to see as being a Sun Devil fan myself. And so, those are the things that I think are important to the Sun Devil community and hopefully, that fits well.
“I think from a community base, from a recruiting base, from a financial base, all of that stuff will have to be learned. For somebody that has that knowledge, it's a huge advantage," he said.
Reach the reporter at Michelle.Gardner@gannett.com or 602 444-4783. Follow her on Twitter @MGardnerSports.