Can ASU interim football coach Shaun Aguano get 1 word deleted from his title?

Kent Somers
Arizona Republic
ASU interim head football coach Shaun Aguano smiles after an introductory news conference on Sept. 19, 2022. Aguano replaced Herm Edwards as head coach, who mutually agreed to part ways with the university.

There may be no more delicate predicament in sports than that of an assistant coach promoted to interim head coach after his boss has been fired.

Conflicting forces and emotions come into play.

You want to show respect for the man who hired you, the guy who was just shown the door. Yet, you also want to fix what’s gone wrong in the hopes of having the word “interim” deleted from your job title.

You are excited to receive a real shot at earning your dream job. Yet, it’s also daunting.

That’s why when Shaun Aguano walked in his home Sunday evening, a few hours after he became ASU's interim head football coach, he and his wife Kristin looked at each other and both thought, “Oh, crap.”

That sentiment quickly passed and gave way to a boisterous celebration. Aguano has worked a long time for this, come a long way. He spent a decade as an assistant at Chandler High. He went from sitting in the back of the room during coaches conventions to always being in the front row. He spent eight years as Chandler's head coach, winning four state championships in a five-year period.

One of the most successful high school coaches in Arizona history, Aguano believes he can become ASU’s next head coach if he can get the Sun Devils to play smart, disciplined and winning football over their remaining nine games.

Those are no small tasks, as anyone who witnessed the 30-21 loss to Eastern Michigan last Saturday can attest.

Winning another four or five games this season and convincing ASU President Michael Crow, and to a lesser extent, Athletic Director Ray Anderson, that he should be the next head coach would be a stunning achievement for Aguano.

The Sun Devils are 1-2 and fresh off one of the more embarrassing losses in school history. They showed little life, even less discipline, and left Anderson no choice but to find a way to gracefully part ways with Edwards, who was in his fifth season at ASU.

In a news conference on Monday, Aguano thanked Edwards for hiring him as running backs coach nearly five years ago and said how sad it was that Edwards’ tenure ended the way it did. The two talked briefly and hugged during a meeting with Anderson and Deputy Athletic Director Jean Boyd.

In that meeting, Aguano was asked if he wanted the job on an interim basis. The immediate answer was yes, and Anderson said Sunday that Aguano would be considered as Edwards’ replacement, depending upon how the final nine games go.

Fixing what’s wrong with the Sun Devils quickly won’t be easy. There’s not enough talent for that, and it’s hard to make a team tougher, smarter and more disciplined in less than a week.

And the next three opponents are all ranked: Utah (13th in the coaches’ poll), USC, 7th, and Washington, 24th.

It will be hard for Aguano to win enough games to keep the big office permanently. His best hope might be for the Sun Devils to pull a couple of upsets, and for Crow and Anderson to find out that the ASU job isn’t as coveted by outsiders as they imagine.

The NCAA is investigating recruiting violations under Edwards, and the program likely will incur penalties at some point. Recruiting has been decimated. ASU is woefully behind in putting an NIL structure together, which Crow isn’t a fan of in the first place.  USC and UCLA are leaving the Pac-12 in 2024, weakening the conference.

What does ASU have to sell? Modern facilities, and weather, I guess, although the heat can make attending games early in the season a miserable experience. It's been considered to be a sleeping giant by many who never worked there, and didn't know anyone who did. If ASU is such a giant, it's a narcoleptic one.

Why would a successful head coach, say Iowa State’s Matt Campbell or Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith, come to Tempe when they likely could receive better offers elsewhere? Or determined they have it better where they are?

 Why would successful assistants, such as USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch or Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken, take the ASU job when other schools are more prepared to win sooner?

On Monday, Aguano emphasized his ties to Arizona. He’s coached in the state for more than 20 years. His four kids were born here. He knows high school coaches here, and he committed Monday to recruiting Arizona kids personally.

The goal, he said, is to make Arizona State a destination for them.

Aguano has a very short time, nine games in 10 weeks, to make a very strong impression. If he manages to do that, maybe we could have Aguano look into solving equally tough problems, like inflation, global warming and drought.

Reach Kent Somers at Follow him on twitter @kentsomers. Hear Somers every Monday and Friday at 7:30 a.m. on The Drive with Jody Oehler on Fox Sports 910 AM.

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