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Arizona State's athletics director Ray Anderson smiles as he watches the Arizona State spring NCAA college football game Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
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ASU AD Ray Anderson: ‘We were on board’ with Coyotes arena deal

Arizona State's athletics director Ray Anderson smiles as he watches the Arizona State spring NCAA college football game Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson reiterated a point on Monday that ArizonaSports.com reported last week: the death of the proposed Coyotes-ASU arena deal had little or nothing to do with the Coyotes or ASU’s athletic department.

“The thing with the Coyotes and ASU is a subject matter that is very frankly driven by campus and others beyond our jurisdiction,” Anderson said at his annual State of Sun Devil Athletics luncheon on Monday at Karsten Golf Course. “It is what it is.”

Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, told Arizona Sports last week that ASU President Michael Crow had to choose his battle with the Arizona State Legislature between building new research buildings to elevate the school’s engineering status, which could mean hundreds of millions in grant money for ASU, or build the arena.

Responding to conjecture that ASU never wanted to partner with the Coyotes, Anderson reiterated something he told Arizona Sports in November.

“Of course we were on board,” he said. “I initiated the original discussion with the Coyotes about a potential partnership so certainly we were on board but the way things evolved during the course of discussions and negotiations — things shift and shake.”

Coyotes CEO Anthony LeBlanc said the team is still open to sharing an arena with ASU’s Division I hockey program down the road, but Anderson said the school is pursuing multiple options.

“We never just pursue one option,” he said. “We like to think we can pursue parallel tracks. If one goes away, we’re looking at another, or multiple.”

One ASU source recently said that at the outset of planning, ASU was considering more than 30 different arena options.

Anderson said he is still holding to a timeline or having an arena build for the Sun Devils hockey team by the 2019-20 season.

SUN DEVIL STADIUM RENOVATION

Anderson reiterated that the football team will be playing in Sun Devil Stadium for the 2018 season as planned, despite a delay in the renovation of the east side.

Anderson said the school is discussing right now how to make the stadium more of a 365-day-a-year facility, and that could include classrooms, labs and conference spaces. Solarization and other sustainable efforts are also being discussed

“Make no mistake about it, we will be in and playing in our facility in 2018 as promised,” he said. “The student-athlete facility will be done, the west side will be completely done, a lot of the additions and the upgrades to the east side will be done.”

MEDIA MATTERS

Football coach Todd Graham and Anderson had a funny exchange after men’s golf coach Matt Thurmond took the podium and told media members in attendance that he liked anything they wrote, positive or negative, as long as they were talking about the program.

Todd Graham took the podium and said: “I love media, too, as long as you’re writing good things. I’m just being honest.”

Ray Anderson to Graham: “I’m with you on this one. Matt’s a different breed”

Graham: “He needs to get a few bad things written about him.”

In his final remarks, Anderson offered this refreshing take for a press corps under attack recently.

“Your coverage is really important to us. We know the world isn’t always rosy; we know that it’s not a perfect world. You’ve got a job to do. Do it. When you have to be critical of us, do so with complete freedom, but when you have a chance to support and acknowledge and promote what we’re trying to do here at Sun Devil Athletics… we hope you will also highlight those things.”

EXTRA POINTS

— Women’s triathlon coach Cliff English announced that ASU is bidding to host the 2017 USA Triathlon collegiate nationals. ASU won the national championship this past season in its first year competing in the sport.

— Anderson has made it plain he would like to add more to ASU’s current crop of 24 varsity sports, as long as they have the financial support. When asked what else might be added, Anderson said: “This is a part of the country where to not have men’s soccer, you just shake your head and so that’s a hint. That’s one of the things that we’ve got to look at to potentially bring back here sooner than later and there will be other opportunities that we need to look at.”

— When asked if ASU would ever play Grand Canyon University in intercollegiate sports, Anderson said: “That would be a discussion of Mr. President (Michael Crow) and others. That was a discussion that was had a long time before I got here. Until that is settled at a different level, I’m not going to be scheduling and I don’t think any of our coaches or administrators would probably do that.”

— Anderson said Wells Fargo Arena is less of a priority right now than building a new hockey arena. If it proves cost effective to build both arenas at the same time that is an option ASU would consider, but Anderson does not envision a shared facility because the hockey facility would also have to house wrestling, volleyball and gymnastics.

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