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Ray Anderson steps down as ASU athletic director

Anderson's resignation comes after nearly a decade of serving as ASU's athletic director, a tenure marked by both controversy and success


Ray Anderson during a press conference on Nov. 27, 2022. It was announced he resigned from Vice President for University Athletics Monday afternoon.

Ray Anderson, who spent nearly a decade as ASU’s vice president for university athletics, has resigned. 

James Rund, ASU senior vice president for Educational Outreach and Student Services, has been named interim athletic director. He previously served as ASU's interim athletic director before Anderson’s hiring in 2014. 

"It has been a privilege to serve as ASU's athletic director for nearly a decade," Anderson said in Sun Devil Athletics' press release announcing his resignation on Monday. "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."

Anderson, who was among the highest paid athletic directors in the country, will continue as a professor of practice and senior advisor at ASU in its sports law and business program at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

During his time, Anderson oversaw an expansion of ASU’s athletic department to 26 varsity sports, a $50 million naming rights deal that became Mountain America Stadium and the construction of Mullett Arena to house ASU’s hockey and volleyball teams. 

Anderson was also a champion for ASU’s smaller athletic programs. He oversaw the creation of ASU’s women’s triathlon team, which just won its seventh national championship. ASU swimming and wrestling enjoyed sustained success throughout Anderson’s tenure, in part due to his hiring of USA Swimming’s Bob Bowman and USA Wrestling’s Zeke Jones.

ASU athletics also enjoyed a period of consistent academic success under Anderson. ASU’s Graduation Success Rate increased every year of his time as athletic director, and ASU led the Pac-12 in Academic Progress Rate for the second year in a row for the second straight year in 2023.

Anderson was behind the creation of the $134 million multi-purpose Mullett Arena built in 2022 and new facilities for the beach volleyball team, and is responsible for a $307 million renovation of Mountain America Stadium, currently heading into its final stages. He also oversaw the baseball program’s move to Phoenix Municipal Stadium in 2015 and the men and women’s golf programs’ move to Papago Golf Course in 2018.

"Buffie and I want to give our heartfelt thanks to President Crow and the Arizona Board of Regents for giving me the opportunity to serve as a leader primarily focused on the athletics side of this New American University," Anderson said in a press release. "Now, I look forward to continuing to serve ASU with my focus on the academic side."

A tenure marked by controversy

In early 2020, former ASU senior associate athletic director David Cohen filed a legal claim against the school. He claimed that ASU waited too long to launch an investigation into alleged sexual assault and harassment claims by Cohen’s wife against then-prominent booster, Bart Wear. The wives of two other ASU athletics employees, including Leslie Hurley, the wife of men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley, were also named in the complaint.

The filing also claims Cohen was fired in 2019 in retaliation for urging Anderson and others at ASU to investigate the claims. Cohen later filed a lawsuit in 2021 against ASU, the Arizona Board of Regents and Anderson. 

READ MORE: Former ASU athletics official files lawsuit against University, Ray Anderson

In a December 2019 email to Anderson obtained by Yahoo Sports, Hurley accused Anderson of having “disregarded the safety and shown no sensitivity towards the women that have experienced sexual assault” after Wear was seen in a “highly visible” seat at a December 2019 men’s basketball game.

In 2020, ASU told Yahoo Sports in response to the incident that the allegations "could have been resolved in a quicker timeframe." Wear, who denies the allegations, has since had his season tickets to ASU athletics events revoked and has been barred from ASU. 

The Herm Edwards era

The tumult continued after Anderson hired Herm Edwards in 2017, a former client of Anderson’s from his days as an agent for AR Sports, to replace Todd Graham as ASU’s head football coach. In the summer of 2021, the NCAA launched an investigation into ASU’s football program alleging that it hosted high school recruits on campus during an NCAA-imposed recruiting dead period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The NCAA was alerted to the alleged rule-breaking by an anonymous former ASU staff member. The investigation, which remains ongoing, led to the resignation of two assistant coaches and the firing of another two assistant coaches. Then-football associate head coach Antonio Pierce also resigned. 

It also prompted ASU to self-impose a postseason ban in August for the 2023-24 football season, the first overseen by new coach Kenny Dillingham.

READ MORE: ASU defends decision to self-impose bowl ban

Edwards was let go three games into ASU’s 2022 football season after a 30-21 loss to Eastern Michigan. Soon after, Edwards joined ESPN, where he had spent nearly a decade before his time at ASU as an NFL and college football analyst. In October, Pierce was named the interim head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Described by some as a “sleeping giant,” ASU’s football program failed to maintain an upward trajectory throughout Anderson’s tenure. Sun Devil Source reported in October that some prominent donors who had given money to ASU in the past had much less interest in donating as a result of Anderson’s performance as athletic director. 

Dillingham told Axios in September that ASU was improving but still “extremely behind” in its efforts to build a competitive NIL program, which he called “over 80 to 85% of the process” of recruiting.

READ MORE: Kenny Dillingham said ASU is ‘turning a corner' on NIL. Here's why

In his weekly press conference that occurred just moments after the news of Anderson’s resignation on Monday, Dillingham said he found out about the announcement at a staff meeting that morning. 

"Thankful for him (Ray Anderson) giving me the opportunity to be the head coach here at my alma mater, my dream job," Dillingham said. "He's been supportive of me since I got here. So best of luck to him and his future. We'll look forward to what the future holds here."

Dillingham said any time there is a change to a sports program, it can lead to more engagement on NIL. He also stressed the need for the program to improve quickly.

“We’ve got about a month,” Dillingham said. “We’ve got to step it up and we’ve got to get rolling at a rapid, rapid, rapid, rapid, rapid rate in these next three weeks to one month.”

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 9:15 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13 to include further information on Ray Anderson’s career as athletic director at ASU. This story is developing and may be updated.

Edited by Jasmine Kabiri and Sadie Buggle.

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