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Ray Anderson: Next season is not ‘make or break’ for Todd Graham

LISTEN: Ray Anderson, ASU athletic director

Arizona State Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM  Tuesday as part of Newsmakers Week.

Anderson, who just completed his third year at ASU, touched on a variety of topics, including his thoughts on head football coach Todd Graham and the football program in general.

While Anderson acknowledged improvement is needed after a 5-7 season, he does not see this next season, which will be Graham’s sixth in Tempe, as a “make or break” campaign.

“I don’t view things in that light. I view things in, ‘What’s the improvement? What’s the progression that we need?'” Anderson said. “I don’t like to be as severe as ‘make or break.'”

Many ASU fans wanted Graham out the door after the Sun Devils capped off their season with a 56-35 loss to the Arizona Wildcats in the Territorial Cup, but Anderson at the time reassured that Graham would still coach in 2017.

The disastrous Territorial Cup ended a forgettable season for ASU. After starting with a 4-0 record, the Sun Devils sputtered down the stretch, winning only one of their final eight games to miss a bowl for the first time since 2010.

Even worse, ASU finished with the worst passing defense in the country for the second year in a row.

Anderson recognized the importance of defensive improvement.

“That being said, do we expect significant improvement in all aspects of the game, particularly very frankly on the defensive side of the ball? The answer to that is emphatically ‘yes,'” he said. “Do we expect better production in everything we do, including our coaching and player development? Emphatically, ‘yes,’ and very frankly I expect to see that.”

Making improvement somewhat difficult has been the defection of many of ASU’s assistant coaches leeaving for other jobs this offseason, with some of the most notable losses being former offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey leaving to become the OC at Auburn and wide receiver coach Jay Norvell becoming the head coach at Nevada.

The oddest coaching change was that of Josh Henson. Henson was hired by ASU to be the offensive line coach/run game coordinator in January, but his tenure was brief as he quickly bolted from Tempe to take the job as the offensive line coach at him alma mater of Oklahoma State.

Anderson isn’t happy about seeing the team’s assistants leave, but noted it means ASU is attracting high-quality coaches as well.

“Here’s what I will tell you, as someone who was an agent for coaches, including college coaches and professional coaches,” Anderson said. “There is a component of being a mercenary when you are a coach, because the opportunities aren’t guaranteed.”

That means, Anderson said, if someone comes along from your alma mater and offers more money, more years and the chance to come home, it’s tough to expect anyone to turn that down.

“On the other hand, you do at least pause and say, when coaches are coming in and going out quickly and, particularly if they’re not for promotions or elevated positions elsewhere or going home, the question naturally is ‘Why are those guys leaving? Have they lost faith and confidence and trust in our direction?,” he said. “That’s a fair question to ask.”

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