ASU’s Anderson on firing Graham: ‘We don’t want to be ordinary’

Nov 26, 2017, 5:13 PM
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TEMPE, Ariz. — Ray Anderson wasn’t swayed by the emotional outpouring of support for Todd Graham in the minutes and hours after what he termed Arizona State’s “euphoric” 42-30 victory over rival Arizona in the Territorial Cup game at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.

He said wasn’t swayed by a win over then-No. 5 Washington or a win over then-No. 24 Oregon. He wasn’t swayed by the team’s 1-2 non-conference record and he wasn’t swayed by a disappointing loss at UCLA.

While Anderson lauded Graham for the program’s academic success and squeaky clean off-field image, his decision to fire Graham after six seasons as Sun Devils coach was made with Graham’s entire tenure in mind.

“I don’t judge by emotion, I judge by body of work,” ASU’s vice president for University Athletics said at a press conference at the Carson Student-Athlete Center on Sunday. “I must also measure competitive consistency on what happens on the field because at the end of the day that’s what a head coach is primarily charged to do.

“Competitive consistency in my view is comprised of recruiting, developing players that you do recruit into here, developing and retaining your assistant coaches, and then in-game preparation and in-game management.”

Anderson said Graham fell short in those areas.

“At the end of the day, we’re still average, middle of the pack and going to a low bowl game,” he said. “We don’t want to be ordinary, we want to be extraordinary.”

While Graham’s supporters thought that a 6-3 conference record and a second-place finish in the Pac-12 South Division was a sign of progress, Anderson said it isn’t enough.

“We deserve more. We have the capacity and the university and the community deserves more and very frankly should demand more,” Anderson said. “I don’t think there is any coach on staff who would tell you honestly that ‘I’m satisfied with being 7-5,’ second place in a weak Pac-12 South, very frankly, and going to a low-level bowl game as opposed to being 9-2 and going to a major bowl game where we can really make some noise and really compete at the highest level.”

Anderson believes that ASU should be among the top three teams in the Pac-12 every season, and among the top 15 in the nation. He also believes ASU can make strides in producing more elite talent, like USC, Washington and Stanford.

“You cannot have a year where none of our players get drafted into the NFL and only one player, a kicker gets drafted to the [NFL Scouting] Combine,” he said, referencing last season and kicker Zane Gonzalez. “That’s the proof of what we haven’t been successful at.

“We have to get to the point where we are recruiting four- and five-star football players who want to come and play here because they know the development for the player and the development for the coaching and the retention of the coaching is not going to potentially get in their way, if in fact they want to go play in the NFL.”

Anderson said the next coach would maintain and even build on the culture of character, academics and citizenship that Graham has instilled.

“ASU and ASU football are in a much better place today than they were six years ago when Todd Graham took over, and they’re in a better place than they were four years ago when I arrived here,” Anderson said. “Coach Graham has done a marvelous job and we will applaud and thank him forever for having led in that effort.”

In the same breath, Anderson scoffed at those who suggest that ASU’s expectations are too high for its existing resources and place in the Pac-12 pecking order.

“They are misguided,” he said. “They are living in the past. They don’t realize what we have here and more importantly, they don’t grasp the vision that Dr. [Michael] Crow and I and many of the folks who really love this program have. I think they underestimate our potential.”

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