ASU President Michael Crow said Pac-12 media rights negotiations are in the final stages and that the school is committed to playing in the Pac-12 conference in a meeting Tuesday with The State Press.
The University does not take positions on public referendums like Propositions 301, 302, and 303 that will allow developers to start work on an entertainment district that would house an Arizona Coyotes arena, Sportsbook, hotel, and other amenities and attractions.
There have been no discussions or arrangements to partner with gambling companies in the Tempe Entertainment District or anywhere else on campus. He said renovations are necessary to ASU's basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and wrestling venue, Desert Financial Arena, but the situation is not dire as some have said.
Pac-12 media rights negotiations
For the past nine months, the Pac-12 has been engaged in negotiations regarding a new media rights agreement for Pac-12 sports. ASU makes a significant amount of money on its sports by being part of a conference that sells packaged media rights to media companies like ESPN and FOX.
The money is generally distributed evenly to conference schools. Last summer, USC and UCLA agreed to leave the Pac-12 for the Big 10, which was a financial blow to the Pac-12 because the schools were two of the more lucrative ones in the conference.
"We're close to knowing where we're going to be, and I think we're close to a deal," Crow said. "I think that the Pac-12 media rights became more complicated with the departure of USC and UCLA. The media rights became more complicated also, as things always do because markets go like this. They're up and down, up and down. But, we have fabulous sports teams and the remaining teams, we're going to get a good offer. We're in the final stages of that process."
Discussions about ASU moving to the Big 12
CBS Sports reported last week the Big 12 "renewed contact" with ASU, Arizona, Colorado and Utah and that the four schools' interest in leaving for the Big 12 has "picked up in recent weeks."
"There have been no discussions with the Big 12 conference on moving," Crow said. "I mean, there's been discussions between everyone everywhere on all things related to where our conference is going and where stuff's going to end up and what's happening. We are committed to the Pac-12."
ASU's involvement in and conversations about Tempe Entertainment District
In May, voters in the city of Tempe will vote on Propositions 301, 302 and 303 regarding a 46-acre development project that will include a new stadium for the Arizona Coyotes, a Sportsbook and housing, among other things.
"We worked with the Coyotes on the use of Mullett Arena. They wanted us to become involved in the pursuit of this bigger project. That's not in our wheelhouse," Crow said.
"As far as I know, we're not on any of the committees and on any of the structures," Crow said. "We don't take positions on public referendums, so we're not a part of it and we made no commitments."
Potential Sportsbook, sports betting partnership in the District, elsewhere
There are no arrangements or discussions currently with gambling companies or creating a partnership with one in the Tempe Entertainment District or elsewhere on campus. But, the University takes advertising revenue from the Gila River Casino for the stadium and in Desert Financial Arena.
There was a proposal to build a location related to "gambling activities" in the Novus Innovation Corridor. ASU rejected the proposal.
"We don't have any arrangements or no discussions with any gambling companies," Crow said.
Renovations to Desert Financial Arena
In February 2022, ASU Athletic Director Ray Anderson told Arizona Sports' Bickley and Marotta that Desert Financial Arena is in "dire need" of improvements, and he "anticipates ASU will be pivoting to that very quickly."
"I don't know what he meant by 'dire,'" Crow said. "You've been there. It's completely functional. It's actually a fine facility and just needs some updates."
One of the most important updates is to DFA's air handling system, which Crow said would cost about $25 million. He also said seating may need updating with the possible addition of handrails and general improvements made to the locker rooms.
"There haven't been any serious injuries just seriously from that," Crow said. "...That facility is completely functional. It does not determine if we win basketball games at all."
Talking about the uniqueness of the University, Crow said there are so many students participating in "so many capabilities that are happening" that the school is "like a freak of nature. Maybe you guys are going to the unicorn school."
"So, Alexa, in venture capital, what is a unicorn?" Crow asked his Amazon Alexa in the corner of the room.
"We're not a unicorn in the private sector sense," he said. "We are so unusual. We're the seven-footer who can dribble and shoot, right? So that's the unicorn. That's ASU. We're the seven-footer who can dribble and shoot in a direly functional arena."
Edited by Walker Smith and Reagan Priest
Piper Hansen is the digital editor-in-chief at The State Press, overseeing all digital content. Joining SP in Spring 2020, she has covered student government, housing and COVID-19. She has previously written about state politics for The Arizona Republic and the Arizona Capitol Times and covers social justice for Cronkite News.