Ray Anderson resigns as Arizona State vice president for university athletics
Nov 13, 2023, 11:24 AM | Updated: Nov 14, 2023, 9:01 am
Arizona State University vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson, who has led the athletic department since 2014, resigned on Monday, the school said in a release.
“It has been a privilege to serve as ASU’s athletic director for nearly a decade,” he said in a statement. “We have entered an unprecedented era where the number and magnitude of changes in the college sports landscape are astounding. As I approach 70, these are not matters that my leadership would be able to corral during my tenure. Continuity of leadership will be needed, and I am choosing to step aside to let the university find that leader.”
Jim Rund, the senior vice president for educational outreach and student services, will serve as interim AD.
Anderson’s resignation comes after Arizona State football before the season announced a self-imposed bowl ban hoping to reduce penalties from the pending NCAA investigation into recruiting malpractices by former head coach Herm Edwards and his staff. The bowl ban came four days before the season opener against Southern Utah and caught current coach Kenny Dillingham and his players by surprise.
Anderson hired former NFL head coach and long-time ESPN analyst Edwards to lead the football team in 2017. It was a controversial move then, as Edwards had never directed a college program and Anderson previously represented Edwards as an agent.
Calls for Anderson’s firing were raised again following the bowl ban that the athletic department said in a statement was to move on from the investigation with clarity. It did not help Anderson that Edwards was paid to leave despite apparent room for his contract to be terminated for cause.
The athletic director’s current contract ran through Feb. 11, 2026, after he signed an extension in January 2021. The extension came after he committed to remaining at ASU, saying he had no interest in pursuing the Pac-12 commissioner vacancy to replace the outgoing Larry Scott.
With his old contract set to expire in September 2022, Anderson inked an extension of five years that increased his annual salary from $800,000 to $950,000 and came with a $500,000 signing bonus.
Anderson and Edwards had been embattled since last summer. An NCAA investigation into illegal recruiting practices during the COVID-19 pandemic began to tie up the functionality of the team. The impact began when three Sun Devil assistant coaches were put on administrative leave for the entire 2021 season — all three either were fired or resigned in the months following the season.
It came to a head as 2022 began when offensive coordinator Zak Hill resigned. Shortly after, to begin February 2022, defensive coordinator, associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Antonio Pierce stepped away from the program.
Pierce resigned on National Signing Day as his Sun Devils’ 2022 recruiting class ranked 105th in the nation, per 247 Sports. It had never rated lower than 65th since the 247 Sports recruiting rankings database began in 1999.
According to SunDevilSource.com’s Chris Karpman, current and former athletic department employees believe ASU will be hit with Level 1 charges once the investigation is complete, which could bring a postseason ban, fines, scholarship reductions and other restrictions.
To that point, before the football scandal, Anderson had put together a strong resume at ASU.
Anderson hired men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley in 2015. Hurley led the team to two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 2018-19 and was close to making it three before the pandemic canceled the 2019-20 college basketball postseason. ASU basketball reached the Big Dance again in 2022-23.
However, Hurley was involved in another major scandal under Anderson’s watch. The head basketball coach privately criticized Anderson for minimizing allegations of an ASU booster harassing several women with prominent ties to the school’s athletic department, including Hurley’s own wife.
That case came to light in early 2020 when former ASU senior associate athletic director David Cohen alleged that he lost his job “in retaliation for insisting Anderson and other ASU officials investigate the allegations brought forward by the three women, including (Cohen’s) wife.”
The school disputed that allegation.
Early in Anderson’s tenure, he hired former Indiana baseball coach Tracy Smith.
Though that didn’t go as Sun Devil faithful would have liked — Smith went 201-155 from 2014-2021 but produced several high-profile MLB prospects — Anderson moved on this offseason and brought on former ASU star Willie Bloomquist to reset the historically proud program.
Anderson also made non-traditional hires to revive the swimming program behind legend Michael Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, in 2015. A year prior, Anderson added wrestling coach Zeke Jones, who has helped lead top-ranked teams and has three Pac-12 Coach of the Year nods dating back to 2017. Both Bowman and Jones had experience coaching for their respective United States national teams, and Jones had wrestled for the Sun Devils.
Anderson also pushed ASU to make men’s hockey a priority by hiring Greg Powers as coach and planning a new multipurpose arena to house the team. Mullett Arena opened last October and will house the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes for the time being as the pro team seeks to build a new arena.
Additionally, Anderson oversaw a refurbishing of Mountain America Stadium to enhance the football team’s efforts.
In the end, Anderson’s successes and failures were greatly tied to the football program and Edwards.
Anderson’s and Crow’s decision to hire Edwards as former coach Todd Graham’s replacement was shocking at the time.
“Our goal for this football program is to reach unprecedented heights, and therefore we need to find a way to operate more innovatively and efficiently than we have in the past,” Anderson said in a statement upon hiring Edwards.
“In the spirit of innovation, our vision for this program is to have a head coach who serves as a CEO and is the central leader with a collaborative staff around him that will elevate the performance of players and coaches on the field, in the classroom and in our community. Equally important, the head coach will be a dynamic and tireless recruiter.”
That model did not hold up well, with Edwards’ program alleged to have knowingly broken recruiting regulations which eventually led to Anderson’s departure from his position.