Arizona State has hired Kenny Dillingham: Oregon’s offensive coordinator becomes the Power Five’s youngest coach

Arizona State has named Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham as its next head football coach, the school announced Sunday. Arizona State quarterback Dillingham oversaw a Ducks offense that delivered one of the most productive units in the country this season, averaging 511.2 yards per game (No. 3 in the FBS), 7.07 yards per game (No. 5 in the FBS) and 40.2 Point per match (No. 4 in FBS).

Dillingham is taking over the program after Arizona State fired Herm Edwards earlier this season amid a 1-2 start and an ongoing NCAA investigation into illegal recruiting practices during the COVID-19 death spell.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be named head coach at ASU,” said Dillingham. “This is a special place for myself and my wife, who also graduated. I truly believe the team we will build here is one that Arizona State and all of the Sun Devils can rally behind and be proud of as they will take everyone into the Valley to help this program achieve the level of success it deserves. I am excited to work and I promise that No one is going to work harder than the staff we’ll put together.”

Even though Dillingham is only 32 years old, he is a native of Scottsdale who has risen through the coaching ranks quickly thanks to starting in the high school ranks at Arizona State at a young age. He graduated from Arizona State in 2012, and was hired by then-offensive coordinator Mike Norvell to be an offensive staffer for the Sun Devils in 2014. Norvell’s relationship with assisting duties continued at Memphis (2016-18) and Florida State (2020-21) with a two-year hiatus. One year at Auburn in between.

When Oregon head coach Dan Lanning arrived as the Ducks’ head coach in December 2021, he moved quickly to bring Dillingham on board, knowing his experience as a former co-worker from their time together in Memphis. The same reasons that made Dillingham an attractive candidate for the Ducks to drop into the Pac-12 as offensive coordinator also apply to the Sun Devils, who will now turn their program over to a native son in the midst of a much-needed reboot.

“We are proud to announce Kenny Dillingham as our new Head Coach of Football,” said Sporting Director Ray Anderson. “He brings energy, knowledge and appreciation to our state and university that we all value,” said Anderson. “His knowledge of the current college football scene, learned by coaching all over the country, is needed and needed at ASU. He will care at the highest level about our state, our alumni, our former players, and every important group to help us win. We look forward to working with him and all of the Sun Devils in making it a success.” team and help our program reach our goals.”

Youth movement in Tempe

Dillingham became the Power Five’s youngest active head coach. Interestingly, he took that title from Lanning, who was the youngest coach in the powerhouse conference in 2022 at the age of 36. But beyond his youth fame, Dillingham’s age also marks a departure in recent hires by Arizona State for its football program.

He is the fifth head coach hired since 2001 for the Sun Devils, and in both age and experience, is far behind the previous four. Dennis Ericsson (2007-11) and Edwards (2018-22) bring extensive coaching records as well as years of experience. Although both Dirk Koetter (2001-06) and Todd Graham (2012-17) were only in their 40s when they arrived, the resume has few references.

But where Dillingham lays the groundwork for this apparent lack of experience is the support he provides within the ASU community. Coaching high school football in Scottsdale for more than half of a contract gave Dillingham connections that helped secure the opportunity, and Sun Devils fans hope it provides a spark to help move the program forward.

The investigation into the NCAA continues

The NCAA is still investigating the Arizona State football program for alleged violations that occurred during the 2020 season. Even before Edwards was fired, the program had seen several assistants get fired or resign as a result of the program’s illegal recruiting practices during the COVID-19 dead period. The ongoing investigation has cast a cloud over the program’s future, and Dillingham and his staff may have to grapple with some of the fallout.

By investing in someone like Dillingham, who has his first job but also has extensive experience in the region, Arizona State will play the long game and hope its native can lead the program out of the storm and into a brighter future.

A chance to move up in the Pac-12

With USC and UCLA leaving for the Big Ten, the Pac-12 is about to see a change in the supposed clicking order within the conference. This kind of realignment move could provide an opportunity for programs to leapfrog and gain a new status within the conference hierarchy, and while the divisions are gone, Arizona State will very likely become the strongest presence in the South.

Arizona’s demographics and Sun Devils’ recruiting base have seen the state’s high school football improve, and Dillingham’s experience from that precinct should allow the program to win some of those battles even against their newfound Big Ten competition. As Oregon and Washington battle for supremacy in the Northwest, the door is open for Arizona State, a program with just three Pac-12 championships to its name, to become a regular contender in the conference.

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