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Herm Edwards hire will define Ray Anderson’s tenure as ASU AD

Newly appointed Arizona State University NCAA college football head coach Herman Edwards, right, holds a football jersey with Athletic Director Ray Anderson during a news conference, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. Edwards, a former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst will assume the head coach position and serve as football CEO according to ASU athletic director Ray Anderson. (AP Photo/Matt York)
LISTEN: Ray Anderson, ASU VP of Athletics

TEMPE, Ariz. — It is not Ray Anderson’s job to accept the mediocrity that has defined Arizona State football since the 1996 Rose Bowl team. It is not his job to genuflect to those who say he is out of touch with reality. As Vice President for University Athletics, it is Anderson’s job to produce better results.

“We’re changing into a differentiated model,” ASU President Michael Crow said via teleconference on Monday. “We’re not happy with the way this model is working at other schools. We’re not happy with the way the model has worked over many coach changes here in our case at ASU.”

Anderson does not have a Phil Knight-level donor to fix his problems. He does not have USC’s tradition or Stanford’s academics to lure football recruits. His office is not anchored in the elite recruiting soil of California, Texas or Florida, and Crow was not interested in the same old pattern of recycling college coaches.

In order to change Sun Devil football’s culture — a culture that has produced no major bowl appearances in 20 years — there had to be a paradigm shift. He had to think outside the box.

RELATED: Edwards ‘committed’ to ASU

Time will tell if Anderson has strayed too far outside that box, or deep into the twilight zone with the hiring of Herman Edwards.

Time will tell if this data and relationship-driven approach to building will overcome the program’s traditional hurdles.

Time will tell if this new, NFL-style structure can revamp a program that optimists and cynics alike refer to as a sleeping giant; for vastly different reasons.

However it pans out — and there is plenty of support for the belief it will not — Anderson knows this hire will define his term at Arizona State.

“I have no problem with that because I’ve always been willing to have the confidence to go with my gut, make the decisions, even the tough decisions that some folks will say, ‘that’s risky man. Why would you do that?’

“I do it because I believe it’s the thing to do. The reality is that it probably is the most important hire I will make in my tenure here. I’ve got no problem facing that as reality. I know a lot of athletic directors who’ve done a lot of good things but when the football fails, they’re out of a job.”

By now, everyone knows the bullet points on Edwards. He hasn’t coached in nine years, he hasn’t coached college in 28 years, and that college experience came as a defensive backs coach at San Jose State.

While Edwards has served as a coach in the Under Armour All-America Game for the past eight years, and as a football analyst on ESPN for the last nine, many analysts view this move as nothing more than an old-boys-network hire; a reward for an old client Anderson once represented as an agent.

“Some people say, ‘well it’s cronyism and his old buddy,'” Anderson said. “What I would say to that is it’s simply not a factor. It’s about fit and vision and very frankly, the willingness to invest skin in the game.”

Anderson said Edwards received a five-year deal. He insisted that when the public records came out, Edwards’ salary would surprise people.

Given Todd Graham’s $12-million-plus buyout and Crow’s well-chronicled insistence that ASU will not pay SEC or Big Ten money for a coach, a low Edwards salary was actually anticipated, but Anderson insisted it’s about more than that.

“Take less than what you know is available out there if you want it because it’s not about the money,” he said. “It’s about the opportunity to do something special in a very unique and special place. That’s why Herman is here. That’s why I’m here. That’s why Dr. Crow is here so there’s a commonality in that DNA that is very real.”

Anderson has a litany of laudable achievements on his record including: the renovation of Sun Devil Stadium; the department’s award-winning sustainability efforts; the relocation of the baseball team to Phoenix Municipal Stadium; convincing the Intercollegiate Tennis Association to relocate its headquarters from Princeton, New Jersey to Tempe; the addition of men’s hockey and tennis, women’s lacrosse and triathlon; and the hiring of big-time coaches Bobby Hurley (men’s basketball), Bob Bowman (swimming), Zeke Jones (wrestling), Missy Farr-Kaye (women’s golf) and Cliff English (women’s triathlon).

As objectionable as this truth sounds to some, those are just side dishes on an athletic director’s plate and resume. Football is the main dish, and if the main dish is bad, the reviews will also be bad.

“I accept that as reality,” Anderson said.

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