Arizona State football had a closed scrimmage Saturday morning. Coach Todd Graham doesn’t mind if I watch the scrimmage as long as I don’t say anything about what I see or hear.
Those restrictions do not extend to filling you in on whom I get to talk to while I’m there. I had met Ray Anderson only twice before. We met once at his press conference, and there’s no way he could remember one face and name among the sea of people he met that day. The second time was a quick conversation at a luncheon. Despite only two handshakes, he walked by me at practice and said, “Hi, Doug. Good to see you out here.”
Obviously a simple greeting, but you have to assume he’s done that to a lot of people. I watched him interact with some others. He said, “You guys are welcome back anytime. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”
Very few people have his level of dignity and professionalism yet bring an inclusive personality to the fold. Anderson does that.
“When you run a disciplined program, of course it helps the good players to become great, but it does a lot more for the undrafted guys. There’s going to be times where a team is deciding between two guys to sign. If word gets around that ASU produces hard-working, smart kids, our players will get the benefit of the doubt. I want pro scouts around the program to see what we do.”
In the seven-and-a-half years I’ve lived here, I don’t remember an ASU athletic director concerned about giving his football players on the NFL bubble an edge. He talked to me about the intangibles NFL scouts look for when making final decisions. Name an AD in all of college sports who knows more about the NFL than the one running Arizona State athletics. You can’t.
So that would let you know he’s a football AD. Then I talked to another member of the athletic department who told me about a parent in an Olympic sport who told him the difference for the parent’s child between other schools and ASU was the amount of time Anderson spent with the family during recruiting. So he’s more than a football AD.
Of course there’s going to be a decision Anderson makes that I disagree with, and I’ll say it on air or blog about why I thought he was wrong. It was only a few years ago that ASU had one of the worst director of athletics in the Pac-12. Now, it might have one of the best.