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ASU hires Graham Rossini as new athletic director

ASU filled its athletic director vacancy six months after Ray Anderson's resignation with internal promotion of Graham Rossini

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A photo illustration featuring shots from ASU baseball, soccer, men's hockey, volleyball, women's basketball and football from the 2023-2024 season in Tempe.

ASU has hired Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director and Chief Business Officer Graham Rossini as its new athletic director following a six-month search and athletic department restructuring.

Sun Devil head coaches were told that Rossini would be promoted last week, according to Rossini replaces ASU Senior Vice President and Interim AD James Rund, who succeeded former AD Ray Anderson last November. 

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

The hiring is seen as controversial by some ASU donors, given the athletic department's rampant issues, including NCAA recruiting violations and former football head coach Herm Edwards' contract buyout. Rossini has reportedly been Crow's top choice for months, and the University did not seriously interview outsiders, according to 247Sports publisher Chris Karpman.

ASU's internal hiring process was far longer than a similar AD shakeup in Tucson. Earlier this year, UA hired Desireé Reed-Francois as its new athletic director after she served as Missouri's AD. The move came after UA parted ways with former AD Dave Heeke on Feb. 2 and longtime Wildcat softball head coach Mike Candrea's brief stint as interim AD. 

Reed-Francois was hired on Feb. 19 after less than a month's search. Meanwhile, Rossini was hired to be the new AD for Sun Devil Athletics on May 23.

Rossini joined Sun Devil Athletics in March 2021 as the senior associate AD and was promoted to executive senior associate AD in the fall of 2023. According to the SDA website, he has been "charged with the growth of Sun Devil Athletics' external departments as ASU continues to Activate the Valley." He also led ASU's efforts to sign the 10-year naming rights extension for Desert Financial Arena, as well as the 15-year naming rights deal for Mountain America Stadium.

Prior to ASU, Rossini was the vice president of special projects and fan experience for the Arizona Diamondbacks for 13 years and was the director of baseball operations for the Sun Devils before the D-backs. He graduated from ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business.

Anderson resigned in November 2023 after serving in the AD position since being hired in January 2014. After his resignation, Anderson cited the "unprecedented era where the number and magnitude of changes in the college sports landscape are astounding" as part of the reason for his departure.

READ MORE: Ray Anderson steps down as ASU athletic director

Following Anderson's exit, Crow began searching for a replacement and completely restructuring the athletic department. In a March meeting with The State Press, Crow said the University was "done with the historical model of athletics" and wanted to redevelop the department before the new athletic director entered the fray.

"What we want is (for) the new athletic director to come into something that we probably should have done before, and that is a new system," Crow said. "A new design where the athletic director is focused on the success of the teams, the success of the coaches, the graduation of the athletes, the winning of the games, the competitiveness of everything that we're doing, as opposed to having to worry about the long term financial structure of the football stadium."

READ MORE: Michael Crow discusses new athletic director, lawsuit involving ASU, future of AI

His idea for the redesigned athletic department is for it to be just as involved as other parts of the University and operate similarly to the rest of the departments at ASU. According to Crow, they are changing Sun Devil Athletics' financial and operational models. This idea resembles the athletic departments of Northwestern, Stanford and Vanderbilt.

Rossini is now tasked with leading ASU athletics into a new era with a remodeled department, all while transitioning to the Big 12 Conference this summer. He is also faced with unprecedented developments in terms of name, image, and likeness, as well as transfer issues sweeping across college athletics.

"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."

Edited by Henry Smardo, Abigail Beck and Alexis Heichman

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Walker SmithSports Editor

Walker Smith is a managing editor in the digital department of the State Press. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor on the sports desk and works for Blaze Radio and interned at Big Slate Media in broadcast productions.

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