Kenny Dillingham Details the Arizona State Culture Change at Big 12 Media Days

    Arizona State head coach Kenny Dillingham is looking for multipliers, not dividers, as he expels "energy vampires" in the Sun Devils' culture shift.

    Between a lack of on-field success and off-field scandal, it’s been a difficult time to be an Arizona State Sun Devils fan of late. However, at Big 12 Media Days, head coach Kenny Dillingham detailed the culture change that will help him transform the product between the hashes and build a better team in Tempe as the program heads to a new conference from 2024 onwards.

    No “Energy Vampires” for Arizona State Head Coach Kenny Dillingham at Big 12 Media Days

    When Dillingham arrived in Tempe for his first head coaching gig, he was one of the hottest commodities in college football. However, he inherited a mess of a program with a depleted roster, recruiting restrictions, and multiple detrimental holdovers from the previous regime.

    The result was a 3-9 campaign. Heading into Year 2 with the Sun Devils, Dillingham was struck another blow with the departure of expected starting quarterback Jaden Rashada to the transfer portal.

    As the Arizona State head coach addressed reporters at Big 12 Media Days, it transpires that might not have been such an issue as Dillingham looks to assert a new culture in Tempe. Talent, doesn’t trump everything in the quest for Sun Devil success.

    “We have three things that we look for other than the physical skills,” Dillingham explains in a response to a question about wins and losses in recruiting. “We want good people. One of our goals of our program, our rules are be a good person. We want people to make good decisions. Making good decisions is another of our rules.”

    “We want people who bring joy,” Dillingham continues. “Either you’re going to be a multiplier in our program or a divider. And I don’t want dividers. I want people who multiply, people who make people around them better. No energy vampires.”

    Arizona State has had its fair share of locker room dividers in previous seasons. The program went viral following the departure of former quarterback Jayden Daniels after teammates were caught on camera throwing his possessions into trash bags while audibly denigrating a player once highly regarded by the team.

    That was before Dillingham’s time, and his focus is clearly fixed on ensuring that remains in the program’s past. He wants to cultivate a strong culture, and in an era of unprecedented roster turnover, make sure that the players he wants, the players that fit, remain within the walls of Sun Devil Stadium (now known as Mountain America Stadium).

    “I think the key nowadays to college football is retention,” Dillingham states. “And I think the only way, unless you can just have — pay players more money and unlimited amount of money, you have to gain their trust and be honest with them.

    “And I think the retention piece of college football is the most important thing, and I think that’s just trust and respect with your players.”

    “Right now in recruiting, our coaches aren’t our best recruiters,” Dillingham continues. “Our players are our best recruiters. Our players are selling our brand. Our players are telling them that our coaching staff doesn’t change. Our players are telling them the standards that are being set. It’s not us recruiting, it’s our players recruiting, and I think that’s what excites me the most.”

    While Dillingham is seeking to weed out the “energy vampires” and enlist multipliers and expunge dividers to set a standard at the Sun Devils, on-field success will be the by-product of a different culture: Toughness.

    “For us, is continuing to establish a culture of toughness,” Dillingham responds to a question about his fall camp to-do list.

    “I think that’s the number one thing that if you watched this league and you look at the teams that have continually won in this league and college football that are joining this league, it’s teams that are tough and training and teaching our kids how to respond to adversity, the good and the bad.”

    “And those are the things that we’ve been harping on the last year. Those are the things in fall camp that we’re going to continue to preach.”

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    “I think at the end of the day, you have to instill a toughness in your team,” Dillingham concludes in response to another question. “And that’s what wins consistently in college football.”

    Dillingham hopes to transform Arizona State from a 3-9 program in the Pac-12 to a competitive outfit in the Big 12 by setting a standard and establishing toughness throughout the program. The “energy vampires” are gone, but it remains to be seen if the Sun Devils can consistently light up their new conference.

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