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ASU athletic director Ray Anderson resigns after nearly a decade

Ray Anderson is stepping down after nearly a decade as Arizona State's athletic director.

Anderson will remain at the school as a professor of practice and senior advisor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

“It has been a privilege to serve as ASU’s athletic director for nearly a decade,” Anderson said in a statement Monday. “We have entered an unprecedented era where the number and magnitude of changes in the college sports landscape are astounding.

"As I approach my seventh decade of life, these are not matters that my leadership would be able to corral during my tenure. Continuity of leadership will be needed, and I am choosing to step aside to let the university find that leader.”

Jim Rund, ASU senior vice president for educational outreach and student services, will serve as interim athletic director. Rund was the interim athletic director when Steve Patterson left for the University of Texas in 2013.

A former NFL executive and agent, Anderson was hired in 2014 to reshape Arizona State athletics. He was instrumental in the school's decision to leave the Pac-12 for the Big 12 next year and helped land one of the largest naming rights deals in college sports history when Sun Devil Stadium became Mountain America Stadium.

Anderson also took criticism for the hiring of former NFL coach and ESPN analyst Herm Edwards, who was fired three games into his fifth season in 2022. Anderson was at the helm when the NCAA began investigating the football program for illegal recruiting practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more on why Anderson decided to call it quits and what his legacy at ASU looks like, The Show spoke to Chris Karpman, who covers the Devils for Sun Devil Source and 247Sports.

Hear Chris Karpman discuss Ray Andersaon with host Mark Brodie on The Show

ray-anderson-resign-mb-show-20231114.mp3

CHRIS KARPMAN: I believe it was just a cumulative effect. The investigation into ASU recruiting that's been going on for 30 months has been like a black hole, really. It’s sucked up everything in its path and took down, of course, Herm Edwards and his staff. They were very tethered to Ray Anderson. That was the biggest hire by far that he’s made in nearly 10-year tenure. And it didn’t work. The “New Leadership Model” and all these things sort of failed. And I don’t think that there was any one particular thing that happened recently. Anderson was at the Rose Bowl on the field celebrating ASU’s win over UCLA on Saturday, saw him get congratulations with a lot of the people there, including Kenny Dillingham. But there were there was a pocket of fans who, amid the celebration, were actually chanting, “Ray, you suck,” because they were so unhappy with his tenure. And it was very a stark thing that I saw. And the it had to have worn on him how disliked and how much the people didn’t want him to continue on in his capacity. And I had been hearing for a long time that there was just a building sentiment that he didn’t really want to do this anymore, despite some of the things that he was trying to do to put a brave face on it.

MARK BRODIE: Well, it’ s interesting because one of the things he said in his statement announcing his resignation was basically looking at all the stuff that has to happen, a lot of things that are changing in college sports and basically saying, you know, look, I’m you know, 70 something years old. This is not really the kind of thing that I’m necessarily equipped or want to be dealing with at this stage of my life.

KARPMAN: Absolutely. Yeah. He’s 69. He’ s on the verge of his 70s. And I think that he never really was super in-tune to what college athletics actually is at the highest level. That’s not his background. And then it has changed so rapidly in the last several years that it just requires a certain level of energy and aptitude and and an instinct of this that I think doesn’t really exist in someone with his particular background at this stage of his life. And also when you have been neutered, so to speak, by a lack of support within your fan community and even people internally at ASU, that makes the job effectively impossible.

BRODIE: So when you look at some of the big changes that happened during his tenure, you mentioned, for example, hiring Herm Edwards, which I think a lot of fans at least at this point would say was not a positive. Clearly there are some positives that happened during his decade at the helm, right?

KARPMAN:Oh, yeah. ASU has dramatically improved in the last decade or so with its academic progress rate numbers and its graduation rate numbers for student athletes. That’s the number one mission is delivering the athletes in your university to successful lives and careers. And ASU’s done that at a very high level, he’s not in a granular way extremely involved in that, but that’s been very important from a as a mission standpoint to Michael Crow — ASU’ s president — and Anderson. And they’ve done that very successfully. And that, by the way, in Olympic sports in particular and maybe even revenue sports to a lesser degree, does have a material impact on an interest that young people have in wanting to come to the university. That’ s by far the the best thing that has been accomplished in his tenure. Then secondarily, I would say the — even though I disagree with it from a business standpoint — the sport expansion has led to more athletes under the umbrella and they have really improved their facilities, which are world class up to and including the new hockey arena. Those things will transport nicely to the Big 12.

BRODIE: I wonder, though, like when it comes to the job of an athletic director, one of them has to be winning games, right? And having your teams be successful. How did he do in that respect when you look at sort of the the overall ASU athletic department?

KARPMAN: Well, quite poorly in what actually matters, which is football and then maybe basketball success to a much lesser degree Those are the revenue engines that you have in your athletic department. And ASU’s has been sputtering. It’s like it’s operating on only two of its four cylinders. And a lot of other schools out there are they have a V6 or a V8 or something. And I think there hasn’t been enough of an understanding from Crow and Anderson about how much gasoline and how much maintenance need to be applied to make sure that engine is functioning properly so that it runs, powers everything else that goes through the rest of your athletic department. That’s what boosters, fans care about. That’s what they’re tuning in to watch. That’s what they’re coming to games to sell out your place and help you with recruiting. That’s what (name, image and (name, image and likeness) is all about. That’s what your your immediate direct fundraising is based upon. And they were trying to compete with the Stanfords of the world in the Directors’ Cup and the sport expansion and all this stuff, and you can’t do everything and then also still have enough of a focused attention to this reality of college football being almost like an arms race where you’re just pouring more and more money into coaching salaries, facilities, the phalanx of support staff that work behind the scene, the analysts and they’re recruiting people, etc. They fell behind in those areas and thought that they could innovate to success, and the reality is you need to pour more money onto those things then they have.

BRODIE: Well, so when you talk about things like NIL, which, has been discussed recently as ASU being behind other schools — you mentioned ASU moving to the Big 12 next year — what do you think the university should be looking for? What kind of attributes do you think they should be looking for in their next athletic director?

KARPMAN: They need to find somebody who understands what a successful program looks like and how it functions from the inside. I strongly believe that even if it’s somebody who hasn’t already been an athletic director at a university, it has to be somebody who’s been high up in the administration at a so-called blueblood program, somewhere that’s very successful at understanding what it takes in in these revenue sports and what it takes from a booster development and outreach and community standpoint to be successful because those things haven’t existed at ASU for a very long time. And so to orient toward those things requires an understanding of what that actually looks like. That’s very much been missing at ASU.

BRODIE: All right. We’ ll have to leave it there. Chris Karpman, thank you so much for your insights. I appreciate it.

KARPMAN: Always my pleasure.

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Naomi DuBovis was an intern at KJZZ in 2023.