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ASU AD Ray Anderson: Todd Graham will return as coach next season

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2015, file photo, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham, left, celebrates with deputy head coach Mike Norvell as Arizona State defeats UCLA in an NCAA college football game in Pasadena, Calif. The Pac-12 has been filled with surprises so far this season, including Arizona State's rise to the top of the South Division and Southern California's fast fade. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
LISTEN: Ray Anderson, ASU Vice President for University Athletics and Athletic Director

TEMPE, Ariz. — Todd Graham will return as Arizona State’s football coach no matter what happens the rest of this season, Sun Devils Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson said Tuesday.

“There should be no question in anyone’s mind as far as I’m concerned,” Anderson said. “He’s brought stability here and discipline and accountability. He’s brought an academic upgrade to this football program that no one can deny, and everyone should appreciate tremendously where we’ve come from in that regard. I have great appreciation for that, as does Dr. Crow, as does our Board of Regents. You put his cumulative body of work together and it certainly translates for me that he will continue to be our coach.”

After a 5-1 start this season, ASU has lost four straight games and faces a difficult game at AP’s No. 7 Washington this weekend. ASU may need a win at rival Arizona the following week to gain bowl eligibility — something Graham has described as a minimum expectation for the program.

The Sun Devils entered the season with a new quarterback, four new offensive linemen and a revamped secondary. They have also had as many as 10 starters out of the lineup at times, and they have been reduced to playing fourth-string quarterback and true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole at times. Anderson acknowledged those challenges but he said he and Graham both expect better.

“The football side we will all admit is not up to our standards,” he said. “Injuries and youth are part of what every coach at some point has to navigate, and you have to do it. One of my favorite sayings is from Tony Dungy when he coached the Indianapolis Colts. It was up in his locker room: ‘No excuses, no explanation.’ You’ve just got to get it done. That’s’ the leader’s chore at the end of the day and I have great faith that Todd will get it done and turn it around.”

ASU’s Achilles heel the past two seasons has been its pass defense, which has ranked dead last in the nation both seasons, and near the bottom in most categories. That could spell trouble for defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, a longtime Graham friend and assistant, but Anderson would not comment directly on what changes Graham needs to make, or if depth has been an issue due to missed recruiting opportunities.

“I think Todd will continue to evaluate his program and make the appropriate adjustments — very frankly particularly on the defensive side. It’s no secret to anybody,” Anderson said. “It’s about outcomes and results. The responsibility of the head coach — the responsibility of anyone who leads any business or department or unit or enterprise is to make the appropriate adjustments they deem necessary to bring the outcome up to the expected standards. You leave it to them. That’s their responsibility and accountability and I have full faith that Todd will do that; do what’s right for the program.”

Aside from Graham’s efforts on the academic side, Anderson said there are myriad other reasons to support and keep his head coach.

“Todd has been very strong on the fund-raising side, on the community-relations side, the branding side, the media accessibility side. I think he does a really good job there and again most importantly on the academic side with our student-athletes and with their efforts in community service.”

“What Todd acknowledges and what I acknowledge is we all strive to be better on the field and we will get better, but I’m a big Todd Graham fan.”

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