Big 12 Football Media Days marks start of new era for Arizona State (2024)

LAS VEGAS — Arizona State football coach Kenny Dillingham had to leave his wife Bri in Colorado where the family was vacationing before another hectic football season gets underway. The reason for the detour was Big 12 Media Days at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, which started Tuesday and will continue on Wednesday.

It was the first formal event in the new conference for the Sun Devils and three other former Pac-12 foes in Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The addition of those teams gives the Big 12 teams in 10 states stretching from one coast to another. Eight teams took turns on the main stage, then rotating to other media stops and promotional shoots around the floor of the stadium, which serves as home to the NFL's Raiders.

The conference issued 500 media credentials for the annual event, which began with an address and question and answer segment with commissioner Brett Yormark.

"I've been saying it for a year now, but the four corner (schools) was the 'A' scenario for us when we thought about realignment. Big brands, great markets, engaged fan bases, both academic and athletic excellence," he said. "We got deeper and better in football. We got deeper and better in basketball and we got deeper and better in Olympic sports. So it's been a win for this conference and I'm thrilled and excited to officially welcome the four corners. As I said, they're here today, obviously. And I think we're in for something pretty special as a conference."

With the Big 12 swelling to 16 teams, it was necessary to stretch the event over two days. ASU's biggest rival, Arizona, is among the teams to be featured Wednesday.

The Pac-12, which held its 2023 media day in Las Vegas, featured each coach and two players from each team. But the Big 12 likes to go big as evidenced by the recent conference expansion. Four players accompanied each coach. A few even brought five.

Dillingham, appropriately dressed in a maroon suit, brought with him center Leif Fautanu, running back Cameron Skattebo, safety Xavion Alford and edge rusher Clayton Smith.

Both Alford and Smith hail from Texas and are excited about joining a conference that will take them closer to home on a regular basis.

The Sun Devils are looking to bounce back from a second straight 3-9 showing so the chance to play in a new conference could be something good.

"It's an honor to be selected by my coach to be here," Alford said. "I'm excited about playing in the Big 12. Being from Texas I've already come across a bunch of players I know or have played against. There are going to be some great games. I know it's still new to a lot of people but it's like a fresh start so that's probably good for us."

ASU athletic director Graham Rossini was among his school representatives. He too was donning the school colors. Rossini, like Dillingham a graduate of the school with a vested interest in turning around the narrative surrounding the program, was formally appointed earlier this summer but has been working behind the scenes for several months.

"It's oddly familiar," he said of being in Las Vegas. "We were on this field not that long ago, done a lot in Las Vegas over the years. It's a great place, easy access for our fans. So it is nice to see the familiar brands in U of A, Colorado and Utah alongside us in a setting we know well but then you recognize that this is different. We're all preparing for life in the Big 12. It's really exciting. We know that is in front of us and we want to make the most of this, how do we join this conference, how do we get a chance to be part of this national footprint and how easy it will be for our fans to watch us compete. It feels closer to getting real."

ASU starts the season Aug. 31, against Wyoming. Its first Big 12 game will come on Sept. 21, against Texas Tech in Lubbock.

"I'm excited about playing in all these unbelievable cities. Unbelievable atmospheres for our guys to play in," Dillingham said. "I think tis is one of the best coached conferences in the country, top to bottom. I'm excited to be part of it."

Gordon appears

Among the other player appearing was running back Ollie Gordon II of Oklahoma State, a first team preseason pick and an athlete singled out by many as a potential conference player of the year. Gordon kept with the scheduled appearance despite an arrest on charges of suspicion of driving under the influence on June 30. He has publicly apologized and took responsibility for the incident.

Coach Mike Gundy said the staff talked about whether or not the player should attend and decided to let him do so and answer questions as he saw fit. Once the event was over it would mark the end of discussion on that topic.

Gordon was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year as a sophom*ore last season, tallying 1,732 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on 285 carries.

ASU will play Oklahoma State on the road on Nov. 2.

Other notes

  • Alford has two years of eligibility remaining. He sat out last season as a two-time Division I transfer and had his waiver to play last season denied. The NCAA recently ruled that players that had to sit out under that circ*mstance could have that year back. Alford said he hasn't thought that far ahead but it is nice to have that option.
  • University of Arizona will take its turn on Wednesday. New coach Brent Brennan is bringing quarterback Noah Fifita, defensive back Gunner Maldonado, linebacker Jacob Manu and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan.
  • The Big 12 Media Days had traditionally been held at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys and close to the conference headquarters in Fort Worth but that venue was booked for the dates, thus the move to Vegas. It will return to Vegas next year as well.
  • BYU soccer standout Bella Folino and and Iowa State wrestler David Carr were named recipients of the second annual Bob Bowlsby Award. The honor, established by the Big 12 Board of Directors as the conference's most prestigious individual accolade, is named in recognition of former commissioner Bob Bowlsby and goes to two top student-athletes who exhibit leadership and excellence on and off the field.
Big 12 Football Media Days marks start of new era for Arizona State (2024)


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