The embattled football coach, whose team had lost four straight Pac-12 games, was allowed to coach in the Las Vegas Bowl in late December, but the search for a replacement began a month prior.
That it didn't lead to then-Houston and current Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin was a very costly mistake, according to ESPN NCAA football analyst Mark May.
Sumlin has guided the Aggies to an 8-2 mark in his first year at the helm, a record that includes a win over No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The team won just seven games all of last season.
"Arizona State made a big, big-time mistake by not hiring this guy," May told Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo Tuesday.
May pointed to the record of Sumlin's current team compared to that of his former squad, Houston, which won 13 games last season (12 under Sumlin) but is just 4-6 this year.
"Just by those numbers alone it tells you what type of coach this is," May said. "He can get the job done with your guys, he can get the job done with his guys, he can get the job done, period."
Sumlin was rumored to be interested in the Arizona State job last winter, but many feel he would not have come to Tempe after learning the A&M job was available.
"You've got to put your hat in the ring," May said. "If you don't put your hat in the ring and you don't do it early enough you don't know if you're going to get the guy or not."
May added it's possible Sumlin would have visited Tempe and been so impressed that he decided to take the job.
Instead, Sumlin accepted the Texas A&M job on December 10, while the Sun Devils landed Todd Graham four days later.