ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

Arizona State names Graham Rossini as athletic director

May 23, 2024, 8:20 AM | Updated: 4:26 pm

Arizona State named executive senior associate athletic director and chief business officer Graham Rossini as its new athletic director on Thursday. ASU also announced new deputy athletic director Lisa Young, as well as executive associate athletic director and managing director of the Sun Devil Club Scott Nelson.

The hire was made 176 days after former vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson stepped down on Nov. 13.

“The ability to lead the athletics department at my alma mater is a responsibility that I am enormously proud to take on,” Rossini said in a press release. “I am so thankful for the many opportunities in my life that were created through ASU, and I have much to repay as a result.

“Our entire athletics department will work relentlessly to support our student-athletes and coaches as we compete at the highest level. We will build and maintain strong relationships with the entire ASU community, including our fans, letterwinners, alumni, partners and donors, while celebrating the spirit, pride and tradition that is unique to ASU.”

Young previously served as vice president for enterprise development at ASU. She worked with school partnerships with adidas and Starbucks.

SunDevilSource.com and DevilsDigest.com first reported the expected hire on May 14.

“Athletics is the best way to advance the institution and to engage with the community,” said ASU President Michael Crow in a release. “We need a leader and a leadership team that will build a progressive, high-performing sports program and consistently compete at the highest level.”

Rossini follows Anderson, who in November resigned from the position he held for nearly a decade.

This news comes in after reports of Rossini’s candidacy being pushed back by ASU donors due to the internal choice, according to SunDevilSource.com’s Chris Karpman. 

Rossini has been serving as executive senior associate athletic director and chief business officer since September after being named a senior associate athletic director in February 2021.

He got his administrative start as director of baseball operations for Arizona State in 2002 after graduating from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business.

Rossini brought that baseball experience with him to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ special projects and fan experience department, where he served from 2008-21.

In his current role, Rossini manages the university’s partnership with Adidas and had a key role in the school inking the 15-year Mountain America Stadium and 10-year Desert Financial Arena naming rights deals. The former deal was reportedly valued at more than $50 million over its length.

He also is part of the Big 12 transition team as ASU moves into the Big 12 for the 2024-25 school year and beyond.

“Graham’s background and experience as a sports executive, including his current role as chief business officer of Sun Devil Athletics, gives him the needed experience and vision through which to manage and lead,” said James Rund, interim vice president for university athletics and senior vice president for Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU.

Why is Arizona State replacing AD Ray Anderson?

Anderson’s resignation came after Arizona State football announced a self-imposed bowl ban before the 2023 season hoping to reduce penalties from the 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 self-imposed bowl ban. The athletic department said in a statement the ban 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.

Despite his failures with the football program, Anderson succeeded with Arizona State’s Olympic sports. He hired former Team USA head coach Bob Bowman, who coached Michael Phelps, to lead the swimming program in 2015. In 2014, Anderson hired wrestling coach Zeke Jones, who has won Pac-12 Coach of the Year three times.

Anderson helped establish the ice hockey program and Mullett Arena. Sun Devil hockey made the tournament in 2019.

In the 6 months since Anderson resigned, citing the changing NCAA landscape among reasons a new leader was needed, ASU has notably lost Bowman to Texas after his team won the men’s swim and dive title. ASU basketball head coach Bobby Hurley has lost several starters to transfer and his top assistant Jermaine Kimbrough, who joined Grand Canyon’s staff.

ASU also watched as rival Arizona replaced athletic director Dave Heeke with Desireé Reed-Francois with a replacement process taking less than a month.

What are the first orders of business for ASU’s new AD?

The main two jobs for Rossini will be to further revitalize the football program and decide the future of Desert Financial Arena.

While there is a good amount of momentum behind Dillingham and the football program, the team is coming off of two of the worst seasons in program history. 

After Arizona State fired Edwards on the day following a 30–21 loss to Eastern Michigan in September 2022, interim coach Shaun Aguano led the Sun Devils to a 2-7 record to close a 3-9 year.

In Dillingham’s first season in charge in 2023, the Sun Devils finished 3-9, including losing to Arizona 59-23.

The football program will work around a four-year probationary period after the NCAA found Level I recruiting violations under Edwards’ staff.

With Arizona State joining the Big 12 during the next academic year, improvements to Desert Financial Arena are necessary to increase revenue and be competitive in a strong men’s basketball conference.

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