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ASU’s Crow and Anderson address Graham’s future, stadium renovations

TEMPE, Ariz. — ASU President Michael Crow and Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson hosted the annual State of Sun Devil Athletics address on Tuesday at Karsten Golf Course to highlight the department’s and ASU’s teams’ achievements, outline future plans and answer media questions.

Both touched on a variety of topics. Here’s a rundown.

Crow on football coach Todd Graham’s recent performance (6-7 and 5-7 records the past two seasons) and future:

“Losing records in any sport are unacceptable and losing records over more than one year in any sport are unacceptable. Now you have to look at what the reasons are and the dynamics. Coach Graham completely understands that his very successful start at ASU has got to be realized again.

“In everything that we hear, we’ve got tremendous athletes, new coordinators, thoughtful additions to the coaching staff. Coach Graham is completely energized — I don’t think it’s possible for him to be un-energized — and so we’re excited about bringing all of that together. We think we’ve got a great culture that has been evolving. We’re excited about this season but losing seasons without some transformational explanation are unacceptable at our level of performance expectation.”

Anderson on recommending that the Board of Regents not extend Graham’s contract by a year this summer — a move that had been a formality in the past:

“We haven’t sugar-coated it ever. You make the business decision like you would with any other leader. Do you award after a performance that was substandard? The answer to that is ‘no, you don’t.’

“Todd has four years left on his contract and I have great confidence he’s going to deliver a great year so people won’t be asking the question going forward, but I also have a responsibility to the university and to the athletic department and to the business of football to make prudent financial decisions. I feel very confident that we’ve done that.”

Anderson, when asked what would happen if Graham delivers another five- or six-win season:

“I don’t think it’s any revelation to anyone that if that happens, and unequivocally I don’t think it will, I think we’re going to win — but if that happens then we’ll make the prudent business decision, whatever that might be.”

Crow on the final phase of Sun Devil Stadium renovations (east side):

“The east side will come down, will be completely reconfigured, the bowl will be unified and we will have a completely renovated stadium by the opening of the 2018 football season, on time, on budget, fundraising achieved, partnerships achieved, sales of the boxes and so forth and so on achieved.”

Crow on the long-term plan for Wells Fargo Arena:

“Wells Fargo is actually a great facility. It’s got strong bones. It’s not a facility that we want to get rid of. It could last forever, it just has to be renewed and updated and modernized, so it’s on our list as soon as we can acquire the resources.”

Anderson on the progress toward building a hockey and Olympic sports arena:

“We’re making progress. We’re still having some discussions with the fundraising, the partners, in how we put it all together, but I am extremely optimistic in where that is going. I’m hoping sooner rather than later than we can go forward. We made a commitment to this hockey program and a part of that commitment was that we’re going to be playing in a Division I quality arena — and we’re going to deliver.

“I always remain open [to other options] but our preference, no question, is to build it within the [athletic facilities] district. If you press me, I’ll tell you straight out I would anticipate within the next 18 months or two years maybe even having an arena operational. Now that’s my aspiration. You know I’m pretty aggressive and half the time they think I’m kind of crazy.”

Crow on ASU’s unwillingness to schedule games with Grand Canyon University:

“There’s really been no change. The Pac-12 Conference has taken a view — it’s not just ASU – to allow schools to play or not play Grand Canyon. Eleven have decided not to. One has decided to. The 11 that have decided not to have decided not to because we think that the issues for for-profit status have not been worked out well enough yet. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be worked out. It’s just that they haven’t.

“It’s nothing against Grand Canyon. It’s nothing against their sports programs. They seem like they’re great sports programs. It has to do with this bigger set of issues that are bigger than Grand Canyon. They’re about what are college sports about?

“There was an occasion a few years ago wherein statements made by executives at Grand Canyon University, they were talking about how playing on the Pac-12 Network would increase their stock value. That didn’t go over very well. We’re not interested in increasing the stock value of a company. We’re interested in playing college teams. It’s a bigger issue than just the sports itself.”

UPDATE: Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller responded to Crow’s criticism in a letter you can read here.

Anderson on losing senior chief operating officer Rocky Harris (USA Triathlon’s new CEO) and chief business development officer Greg McElroy (retiring):

“Rocky has been a superstar for a number of years and in the last year and a half he has really demonstrated across his duties that he is a real top performer. Rocky has been someone we have been planning would move on to be an athletic director or take on a senior position like he has now with USA Triathlon.

“As a leader I have always respected the notion of succession planning because I don’t like surprises. This wasn’t a surprise. We weren’t caught off guard. I’ve been around a long time. I know when someone is starting to lose a little bit of the gas. I’d been determining for several months that in the event we lose Greg, how will we fill those duties?

“A succession plan means that all along you’re identifying others that you may bring in. A year ago, when we brought in [chief financial officer Frank Ferrara], and [senior associate AD] Ken Landphere and [senior associate AD] Natesh Rao, it was all with the thought that when Rocky leaves, whenever that is, we have people ready to step up and absorb some of those duties.

“[Senior associate AD] Deana Garner Smith and [senior associate AD] Jean Boyd are two more. We knew that we would have an opportunity to spread Rocky’s duties among senior folks and then give junior folks a chance to backfill for those senior folks so everyone gets a chance to advance their skills. [Senior associate AD] Becky Parke was who I identified for Greg. She’s been in marketing.

“I’m a real believer that whenever you can, you promote from within because I think that’s good for your culture. It’s good for motivation and inspiration and morale. It’s good for folks to know that when the senior level positions open up, Ray isn’t automatically looking outside.”

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