ASU Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson has had a busy summer. In early June he hired David Cohen and Scottie Graham to join May hire Greg McElroy to be his three new senior associate athletic directors.
The three will be making a combined $660,000 in annual salary. Adding this onto Anderson’s $150,000 increase in salary from predecessor Steve Patterson is an $810,000 investment the University is taking in its athletic department.
According to the ASU Athletic Department Chief of Staff Rocky Harris, ASU has always been smart with the money it’s spent toward athletics, and this could serve as the prime example.
“Ray’s vision is to be able to generate the revenue necessary to support our student-athletes in a way we haven’t been able to before,” Harris said. “We rank maybe in the high-40s in revenue, we also rank in the top-30 in the Director’s Cup finish every year, which measures on-field performance. We’re very efficient with the dollars that we bring in; we probably have the best return on investment in college athletics.”
However, ASU’s efficiency has only gone so far. Harris said ASU historically has not been able to generate the revenue necessary to support the programs it has and wants to have.
To generate this revenue, ASU hired brilliant sales minds in McElroy and Cohen to get the most out of the Sun Devil Stadium renovation, Harris said.
During his time with the Dallas Cowboys, McElroy was the front man in the stadium’s naming rights deal with AT&T; that nets the Cowboys up to $19 million annually.
Cohen, who will work to help the areas of marketing and ticket sales, was director of ticket sales for the Portland Trail Blazers from 1996-02. It should be noted that the Trail Blazers were in the top-five in the NBA in average attendance at home games every year from 1996 to 2001; in 2002, they “fell” to seventh.
Graham may not be a sales wiz, but his job is just as important. He will work with Jean Boyd, who is in charge of student-athlete development, to provide leadership and assistance to ASU’s student-athletes.
Graham, who also has a marketing background while working for the NFL Player’s Association, will also provide assistance in the operations and development of the athletic programs.
Harris said the kind of revenue these three new hires can generate for this school makes the investment absolutely worth it.
“This year we’ll probably get around $75 million in revenue, so it’s about one percent of our budget,” Harris said. “The cost of hiring them versus the return is a no-brainer. Greg is one of the top sponsorship generators in the country, and Dave is one of the most strategic ticket sales leaders.”
It may also help that Anderson had already known all three long before they were hired at ASU. Anderson worked alongside McElroy, Graham and Cohen during their tenures in the NFL.
“That’s part of being a good leader is hiring people you can trust, that can help improve in areas where you feel like this organization needs to show resources in improvement,” Harris said. “It’s no surprise to me that he brought in those three individuals because of the experience they have. You need people that have been there and done that.”
In a December meeting with The State Press editorial board, ASU President Michael Crow said the University tries to compete with programs such as Stanford and Texas, despite not having the same level of resources.
“So for us, the balance is a modest athletic program that’s as competitive as it possibly can be with successful student athletes, within a sense not selling out to this arms race,” he said.” The arms race means more salaries and more this and more that.”
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