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Ex-QB Rudy Carpenter: ‘I’m Rooting for Kenny Dillingham’ but Arizona State Athletic Department Will Hold Him Back

Rudy Carpenter has known Kenny Dillingham since he was a young, hungry offensive coordinator at Scottsdale Chaparral High School a decade ago.

So the ex-Arizona State quarterback is thrilled to see his buddy make the warp-speed ascension to head coach of the Sun Devils.

Dillingham is only 32 years old and is the first head coach in the college’s history to be a native of Arizona and an alumnus of ASU.

“It’s really an unbelievable story, right?” Carpenter said.

In a conversation with, Carpenter stresses multiple times that he’s “rooting for Kenny Dillingham” and hopes he can turn the Arizona State football team around.

But Carpenter — a four-year starter at ASU from 2005-08 who played three seasons in the NFL — said he has serious doubts because of a lack of competency within the Arizona State athletic department.

“I’m someone who wants this program to really do well; I want to see ASU succeed,” Carpenter said. “I’m happy we have someone young in there — fresh ideas, innovative, understands the kids a little bit better. But I think ASU and that program is going to continue to struggle until they make a lot of changes at the administration level. And that’s not just the athletic director spot. That’s one spot.

“At ASU it’s been a bunch of the same old people who were there well before I went there who are just ecstatic about collecting checks. As long as they are getting their checks and their benefits and everything else that comes with it, that’s fine. And if ASU is 7-5 every year, who cares? To me, that’s not acceptable. To them, it has been. And to the president of the school (Michael Crow) it’s been acceptable for sure.”

Carpenter does not see a department willing to push the envelope, and he would love to see a Dillingham-like shakeup at the administrative level that would “reinvigorate that entire building with young, talented, capable people, not a bunch of administrators that are happy to collect checks while saying the politically correct things every day.”

A strong push by Arizona State’s most wealthy donors could be the most realistic way to get it done, but Carpenter isn’t holding his breath.

“It’s really difficult,” Carpenter said. “Why? Because who do those boosters love the most? Those administrators. Why? Because the administrators give them carte blanche for everything and anything they want to do. They kowtow to them. It is what it is, but personally I’d like to see an entire shakeup. Again, I’m rooting for Kenny. I love (newly-hired assistant) Charlie Ragle. I hope that staff does well. But to me it’s very similar to NFL teams. When you have a terrible ownership group, it’s really, really difficult.”

Dillingham’s philosophy is to target the state of Arizona, relying on his local ties and that of his staff to keep in-state recruits home.

To his credit, Dillingham is off to a great start, as some notable former local stars have come back to Arizona State via the transfer portal.

But can he land the big fish each cycle? DIllingham’s message will likely resonate with Arizona players, but in an NIL world, Carpenter doesn’t believe the football program will get enough monetary help to move the meter.

“I’m rooting for Kenny and I’m hoping for Kenny, and Kenny’s plan is for it to work,” Carpenter said. “Kenny and Shaun Aguano and Vince Amey and Charlie Ragle, those high school connections are going to make a difference. But if you’re a kid and you have someone offering you $200,000 and you have ASU offering $50,000 —  and the school offering you $200,000 plays in front of packed crowds every week, and you’re a local celebrity treated like a professional athlete, and on top of that you play the best competition on the best TV networks with the biggest exposure, I mean, you do the math.

“If you’re Spencer Rattler, Bijan Robinson, Mark Andrews, Christian Kirk, why are they going to the middle of nowhere to play football? Because it’s the best college football with the best environment and the most money. I love Kenny and I hope he can do a lot of things, but until you start coming with the money, it’s not going to make a difference.”

Carpenter is still perturbed that former coach Herm Edwards and his staff took practically all of the blame for the recruiting scandal that derailed their tenure in Tempe.

He feels there is hypocrisy in the university claiming to be focused on combatting COVID-19 while recruits were simultaneously being put in harm’s way amidst the pandemic.

While Edwards is gone, Athletic Director Ray Anderson and Crow remain in their roles.

“It was such a fraud from the beginning,” Carpenter said. “This is the school that is out in front mandating vaccines, wearing masks and putting up signs all over campus while at the same time illegally recruiting, illegally having people fly on planes and sit in meetings and be around each other.

“They’re just like everybody else. They go with the same thing everyone else goes with because that’s what they’re supposed to do. That’s what protects their jobs, right? That’s what Ray does. That’s what Michael Crow does. And then when they’re 7-5 every single year, everybody sits back and says, ‘Oh, it must be the coach.’ Really? Then why have all these coaches gone on to have success at other places?”

While Carpenter is clearly not a fan of the higher-ups in administration, he’s holding out hope that Dillingham’s familiarity with Arizona State can help him navigate the hurdles and get the ship turned around.

“You need someone at ASU that understands the program, understands the recruiting and how it works,” Carpenter said. “You hear so much that it’s a sleeping giant and yada, yada, yada. They’ve never been able to really get it off the ground, and there are a lot of reasons for that. I think someone who has been a fan here for a long time understands some of what the limitations are. I think Kenny understands that. I think it’s a good hire. He’s super enthusiastic and he really wants to be successful in this job. I’m happy for him.”

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