The ASU men’s cross-country team boasts a three-time Big Ten Conference champion in track and field.
He also owns the University of Wisconsin’s school record for the indoor 3,000-meter run.
In high school, he won the California cross-country state championship in 2004.
Not to mention the athlete of the year and All-American awards he won at the high school and collegiate level.
It seems the Sun Devils should be stoked to have Brandon Bethke, right?
But, as is usually the case in sports, it’s not that simple.
“I heard my coach [Jerry Schumacher] was leaving [Wisconsin] in May,” the junior said. “Once that happened, I started praying to see God’s will for me.”
Bethke then remembered how ASU cross country coach Louie Quintana attempted to recruit him out of high school.
“I remember talking to [Quintana] a little, seeing his reputation and what he had accomplished,” Bethke said. “It was really enticing. I knew that, after talking with him, it would be a good fit.”
Unfortunately for Bethke, UW declined to release him from its team when he applied for a transfer to ASU in August.
Since he already used his redshirt season his first year out of high school, Bethke will lose a year of eligibility this season.
“I guess [UW] didn’t want a mass exodus [after Schumacher left],” Bethke said.
What makes it sting a little more — UW allowed Bethke’s teammate, sophomore Noah Shannon, to transfer to ASU.
“That’s something that baffles me,” Quintana said.
Shannon, currently ASU’s No. 2 runner, finished 40th overall at the Pac-10 Conference Championships on Oct. 31.
Bethke said UW never offered a reason and told him he was in a “different situation.”
It’s not hard to see what Bethke could have done for the Sun Devils this season.
“As a coach you try to downplay it,” Quintana said. “Clearly he’d be our No. 1 guy. He probably would’ve finished top three at the conference meet.”
ASU finished last at the Pac-10 Championships on Oct. 31. With Bethke in the lineup, it could have been a lot different.
Quintana said waiting on Bethke played into the coach’s decision to mortgage his roster this season for a better team down the road.
Quintana redshirted five runners including some of the team’s top runners like junior Jeff Helmer and senior Alonso Contreras.
“He’s definitely had an impact on how we’ve done our business,” Quintana said. “All these guys [who] are sitting this year will be really good next year.”
But while the team is waiting on Bethke, he has not waited to make an impact on the team.
The junior has participated at practice and ran unattached in meets this season. In fact, he recorded the fastest time at the Dave Murray Invite on Sept. 19.
“We have a lot of guys that look up to him,” Quintana said. “It’s actually a great thing for our group.”
The players see it too.
“During workouts, he’s really good at keeping us positive during runs,” sophomore Patrick Milloy said. “He’s leading by example and we know what works for him because he’s fast.”
Through it all, Bethke has kept a positive attitude and said he’s looking forward to the seeing how far his talent can take him.
“This is where God wants me,” Bethke said. “I feel at peace with everything.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com.