ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

Graham Rossini’s fit made him Michael Crow’s only interview for Arizona State AD job

May 23, 2024, 11:11 AM | Updated: 4:27 pm

Arizona State University president Michael Crow said he considered other candidates for the open athletic director position.

But in the six months since vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson stepped down, it became clear to him that Graham Rossini fit the school’s larger culture and could lead a sports department that had fundraising red flags its current coaches frequently cited.

Crow said he didn’t interview anyone else before ASU officially hired Rossini as AD on Thursday. Rossini’s past few years at ASU and work restructuring and preparing the program for a move into the Big 12 made him the right man for the job.

“I would have waited six more months for the opportunity of a lifetime,” Rossini told reporters as he was introduced.

“We’ve been spending this last six months preparing and doing a lot of work. (It was) not for me to worry about the process. My direction was, put your head down, get ready, understand the things about the university that you might not be familiar with and be prepared to come out of this and lead with confidence and optimism and project that on the athletics community,” he added. “The process is irrelevant, in my opinion, to where we are today.”

Crow explained the process to replace Anderson took longer than six months and moreso had to do with a restructuring of the athletic department as well as an NCAA investigation into the football program that is for the most part resolved.

Arizona State approached the changes “to build a multi-decadal trajectory,” Crow said.

“What we’ve been doing the last six months is reconstructing ASU sports, of which ASU athletics is a part … around a new model, a model in which we’re going to operate ASU, Sun Devil Sports, like the rest of the university,” Crow said. “Highly entrepreneurial, centralized support, centralized facilities support, centralized everything.

“We were looking for and spending time assessing the skillset of our internal staff — looking at external folks but spending time focused on who could be the best executive to take Sun Devil Athletics into the world ahead. We wanted to get everything past us, the NCAA investigation, which is now complete relative to ASU.”

The president said the athletic department will function more like the university’s academic schools rather than an auxiliary unit. That means things like facilities are managed at the school level rather than the department level.

It deletes any debt owed by the athletics department to the university, Crow said. It also takes some burden off Rossini and his staff.

“They won’t have to worry about the core things that have drug so many athletic departments down,” the president said.

Rossini, who is credited with landing naming rights deals to the Mountain America Stadium and Desert Financial Arena, can put efforts into recruiting winning coaches and players, then improving fan experience and fundraising for NIL and beyond, according to Crow.

Rossini graduated from ASU’s business school and spent 13 years with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2008-21. He served as vice president of special projects and fan experience with the D-backs, overseeing parts of ticketing, corporate sponsorships, special events and merchandise.

ASU’s new athletic director credited D-backs CEO and president Derrick Hall for molding his approach as an executive.

Rossini wants the Sun Devils internally to “obsess over our fans,” he said. He considers how ASU will impact a fan traveling to a Sun Devils event from a “driveway to driveway” experience.

Arizona State football coach Kenny Dillingham gave Rossini his blessing at the press conference Thursday. Dillingham called Rossini “task-driven.”

The pair have worked hand-in-hand since Anderson stepped down and built a 2025 recruiting class currently ranked 16th in the nation, according to 247 Sports.

“It’s great. Having an ASU alum and somebody who’s passionate about this place, who you know when he says something, it’s because all he wants to do is see it succeed,” Dillingham told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Thursday. “I just think me knowing his passion for the university, it really does excite me and it should get the fan base excited that you have somebody who just wants to see this place successful in that role and he’s a guy that gets things done. He’s a task-oriented guy who accomplishes things.”

Arizona State AD Graham Rossini on his views of NIL improvements

Rossini undoubtedly understands ASU is playing catchup on the name, image and likeness front to improve recruiting, but he also sees value in how NIL can be used to empower his athletes’ education.

“We want to plug those entities and companies (in the metro Phoenix area) into NIL,” Rossini said. “A lot of our student-athletes spend their entire life playing the game, their entire life with a chance to earn a scholarship and go represent a university at a high level. That comes at a price for them.

“They’re making a sacrifice. They’re compromising their ability to have a high school part-time job or a college internship or do a work study and build professional development. So when they graduate, they’re relying on their degree and relying on their athletic intangibles to go propel them in the real world. It’s a competitive job market out there. We want to use NIL as a tool for professional development for our student-athletes.”

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Graham Rossini’s fit made him Michael Crow’s only interview for Arizona State AD job