ASU announces 'Return To Camp T' campaign a success

Sun Devil football will return to famous camp in August 2012

An initiative spearheaded by ASU head football coach Todd Graham and Steve Patterson, athletics director and vice president for University Athletics, calling to restore the tradition of hosting Sun Devil Football at Camp Tontozona for practice and a scrimmage, has been successful. The football team will return to the famed mountain retreat, located northeast of Payson, Ariz.

The campaign – “Return To Camp T” – was launched on April 19 and called for Sun Devil fans, friends, alumni and former players to come together to raise $150,000 for the Sun Devil Club before June 1. That figure was met and the Sun Devils, under first-year coach Graham, will visit the Camp Aug. 14-18 with a scrimmage on the final day.

“I love the tradition of college football,” says Graham. “That is one of the reasons I coach at the collegiate level.  Camp Tontozona is one of the famous icons in the history of college football. I wanted to take my first team there because the tradition begins at Tontozona, just like it did in 1960. Every player, every coach and many fans begin each season in the tall pines northeast of Payson. Coach Frank Kush had a vision. It worked well then and it will again.”

“Camp Tontozona united Sun Devil football players from every generation and we wanted to return to that tradition,” says Patterson. “We needed the Sun Devil Football family to unite behind this goal and it did. Our goal with this campaign was to engage as many of our fans as possible to be a part of bringing us back to Camp Tontozona.”

Nearly 500 people donated to the campaign, including former players representing the last six decades of Sun Devil football.

On May 2, the Sun Devil Club announced a matching donation program by The White Mountain Sun Devil Club Alumni Chapter, which matched every dollar given from that date forward up to $65,000. That program effectively doubled every contribution from that point forward.

"On behalf of our White Mountain Sun Devil Club and Alumni Chapter's Board, volunteers and sponsors we were able to take the lead and support the Return To Camp T project with our $65,000 matching funds program," says Ted Cesarano, president. "Our theme has always been 'The Tradition Continues.' Six years ago we committed to the Return of the Steak Fry. Camp T, like our White Mountain Steak Fry, are long-standing traditions at ASU. Our board felt that it was highly important to continue both traditions.  

"In order for us to continue funding projects like Camp T and our Scholarship programs we need the support of all Sun Devil fans at our 5th Annual Steak Fry, to be held thus year on June 22-23 at the Pintetop Country Club. We are supporting scholarships for deserving young students throughout the White Mountains. If you consider yourself a true Sun Devil fan, you need to join us on June 23 to experience the tradition of the wonderful event that is the White Mountain Steak Fry."

Donors of $100 or more received a “Return to Camp T” bumper sticker, and $250 or more earned a “Return to Camp T” t-shirt. Donors of $500 or more received a T-shirt and are now eligible to go on a turnaround trip to the scrimmage at Camp Tontozona. All donations through the Sun Devil Club were tax-deductible.

Camp Tontozona will provide the Sun Devils with a unique setting for concentration and preparation for the 2012 season. The camp began hosting Arizona State football’s preseason practice in 1960 under the direction of head coach Frank Kush and continued through 2008. Set within the cool mountain country of Payson, Ariz., the camp borders the Tonto National Forest, which provides the first two syllables of Tontozona. The state of Arizona offers the last pair.

The nonprofit organization, Tonto Creek Camp (501 c-3-nonprofit), was established to manage the Retreat at Tontozona (formerly Camp Tontozona) throughout the year. They have hired staff and have booked the facility for different groups and entities, including youth camps and corporate retreats. Because of their work maintaining the site, the camp has remained a viable option for Sun Devil Athletics and the football program.

No conversation about Camp Tontozona would be complete without mentioning Mount Kush. “The first thing we did was climb that mountain as a group,” says Kush. “When we got to the top the rookies sang their high school fight songs. I thought the whole concept started us out with a lot of togetherness.”

“Camp Tontozona was simply about a bonding experience for us, especially as freshmen,” said former Arizona State quarterback Jake Plummer. “For me, it was my indoctrination to college football. It culminated in a Rose Bowl for us in 1996. It was Camp Tontozona that brought us together.”

The Sun Devil Club will have other opportunities to experience Camp Tontozona, including a turnaround trip, a barbecue and a golf outing. For more information on these events, contact Cori Hewitson in the Sun Devil Club at 480-727-7700.