ASU athletics: Anderson resigns, social media celebrates and Crow steps back into the spotlight as a big hire looms

The Sun Devils will have a strong pool of candidates for their AD vacancy

One of the Pac-12’s most vexing questions, “How does Ray Anderson still have a job?” has finally been answered.

He isn’t.

The controversial athletic director at Arizona State announced his resignation on Monday, effective immediately.

So ends a nine-year reign that included the usual mix of hits and misses in college sports administration, as well as a gaffe for the ages that will define his legacy in Tempe.

Of course, the Herm Edwards Experiment had a collaborator: ASU president Michael Crow signed off on all major decisions, including the bowl ban announced just days before the season began.

Crow, on the other hand, is the big boss and has done excellent work for the university. Anderson was in charge of the football program and is responsible for hiring Edwards, a friend and former business partner, as well as the NCAA recruiting scandal that has engulfed the program for the past two and a half years.

Anderson’s resignation elicited the kind of unrestrained joy on social media that is usually reserved for the firing of losing coaches.

However, Anderson’s actions, demeanor, and decisions over the years alienated a large number of constituents. According to, the school’s NIL arm, the Sun Angel Collective, set a single-day record for new members on Monday.

The announcement’s timing and wording were unusual. Why Monday instead of the day after the regular season? Or any day in the previous two years?

The phrase “effective immediately” implies that it wasn’t Anderson’s decision — that he’s leaving on Crow’s terms, not his own.

Our assumption is that the move is directly and deeply related to NCAA recruiting violations, rather than general mismanagement of football in particular and athletics in general.

ASU is frequently referred to as a “sleeping giant” in college athletics. We have different perspectives on the situation. It’s more like the Sun Devils are in a medically induced coma as a result of all their self-inflicted wounds over the years. (ASU has committed more major NCAA violations than any other Power Five school over the course of decades.)

Yes, Crow’s business model, with its massive online education program and sprawling real estate ventures, has allowed the university to subsidize athletics with more than $20 million per year.

Yes, the large enrollment (around 60,000 students in Tempe) provides a strong foundation of student support for athletics.

And the rise of high school football in Phoenix has resulted in a slew of blue-chip prospects within a short drive of campus.

In other words, ASU has a well-funded athletic department in a large media market with a large alumni base and in-state talent.

For these and other reasons, including Crow’s willingness to pay his athletic director well — Anderson earned around $1 million per year — the Sun Devils will have a strong candidate pool.

Make no mistake: this is a highly sought-after position.

But it’s also more difficult than the distance suggests, with ASU’s white whale being long-term traction in Phoenix’s pro-sports market.

The Sun Devils would be wise to hire a candidate who is familiar with the school and the surrounding area, who is thoroughly engaging and endlessly energetic — the administrative equivalent of football coach Kenny Dillingham, who was hired by Anderson and Crow last year.

Crow, on the other hand, must hire an athletic director who understands the game and can draw on industry contacts and experience as college sports undergo unprecedented change.

The Sun Devils will join the Big 12 next summer, but that is only the beginning of their story. Anderson’s replacement must prepare ASU for the next round of upheaval, which is expected to occur later this decade or early in the 2030s.

Crow is the process’s wild card.

Anderson, a former NFL executive and sports agent, was hired.

He gave his approval to the Edwards experiment and the ‘New Leadership Model.’

He backed former Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s failed policies and led the conference off the cliff.

He is justifiably proud of his reputation as an innovator, having transformed ASU into a post-modern national university.

Crow, on the other hand, must fight his instincts in this case.

Arizona State requires an anti-Anderson.

It requires someone who will connect with the community rather than alienate its constituents.

It requires someone who will plan for the future rather than hire past business partners.

It requires someone who will embrace pragmatism, solve problems, avoid arrogance, and position the Sun Devils to thrive in a changing environment.

After all, Anderson’s attempt to reinvent the wheel is what caused ASU football to fail.

The Sun Devils have a chance to thrive if they can just get out of their own way for once.

Here’s an out-of-the-box thought for Crow: Hire an AD with experience in college sports.

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