I couldn't believe my eyes. Long lines at the concession stand for an Arkansas State spring football game. I wasn't the only one who was surprised by the turnout. The franchise, quarterback Ryan Aplin, told offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee that he was shocked by the number of fans in the stands.
Gus Malzahn wasn't surprised. This is the same guy who still maintains that ASU, in time, will be the next Boise St. The former Arkansas high school coach says he's studied every aspect of the Broncos rise up the ranks, and believes ASU is in better shape than Boise, when they decided to go all in.
This Saturday afternoon could have passed for a celebration for ASU's new head coach. Gus' parents were in the stands. Bob McClure who coached a young Gus Malzahn at tiny Fort Smith Christian high school was there, and on the sideline watching from field level, another member of Gus' extended coaching family, former Springdale receiver Damian Williams.
Over six thousand fans paid five dollars each to watch ASU's first teamers play their backups. A former Indian/ Red Wolf said the atmosphere was better than some regular season games that he played in. It had the feel of a big event. University officials lined the sideline, along with hundreds of invited high school players.
For the first time in a long time, ASU football fans have been allowed to dream of future success. Ten wins last season, followed by the hiring of Gus, has even the most jaded ASU fan hopeful that better times are ahead.
This is the new ASU. Billboards all over the state, weekly you tube videos , a central Arkansas media blitz and a dreamer. Back in 1994, Gus Malzahn opened eyes all over the state when he led tiny Hughes high to the state title game. It's now 2012, and Gus believes it not a matter of if, just when his Red Wolves will shock the college football world.
Spring football 2012. The numbers are in. ASU 6,115, Boise St. 17,123. Both school records.