Last December, Love did have to fire Dennis Erickson who posted four consecutive non-winning seasons – the worst stretch of any Sun Devil football team in history, and Basketball head coach Herb Sendek is coming these days under great scrutiny following back-to-back 10th place conference finishes as well as a rash of transfers during his tenure.
The hiring of Steve Patterson back in July of last year, as Sun Devil Athletics' Chief Operating Officer, was viewed by many as the beginning of the end for Love. After all, Patterson's arrival was to oversee the capital improvements to ASU's athletic facilities, namely the Sun Devil stadium renovation project. It is virtually unheard of for a school's Athletic Director to be uninvolved in such a venture but that is exactly where Love found herself following that personnel move.
While Love was at the forefront of the Erickson firing, during the coaching search process she once again effectively found herself on the sidelines. It wasn't only the fact that one of her major coaching hires have failed, but also the perception (which was in fact was reality) that she didn't compile a list of possible candidates to replace Erickson as the Sun Devils continued to struggle year after year. Consequently, Crow and Patterson were the driving forces in that coaching search.
The football coaching search left much to be desired, and ironically (if not tragically) during that process it was announced that a two-year contract extension that Love had given Sendek was proved keeping Sendek to the end of the 2015-2016 season. This was a move that was controversial to say the least and one that only fueled Love's critics that much more.
Love's job responsibilities further diminished when Tim Cassidy was tapped as the senior associate athletic director of football overseeing the operations in the school's #1 sport, as well as the hire of Rocky Harris as the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Communications, a move that was orchestrated by Patterson bringing into the athletic department another accomplished executive from the professional ranks.
"Lisa Love has made a number of accomplishments in her seven years," Crow said. "But Lisa and I both came to the conclusion that at this stage of our evolution that her interest in moving to other things, our interest in moving forward and gaining national championships and moving forward in other dimensions, that now would be a good time to make a new appointment in the role of Vice President for University Athletics.
"Lisa Love achieved what we asked her to achieve and here we are seeking to achieve more. Steve Patterson is the best pathway for us to achieve more."
Today's personnel move won't come cheap as Love was under contract through June of 2014 and is scheduled to get paid close to $700,000 following her dismissal.
Patterson becomes ASU's fourth Athletic Director in the last 16 years and brings a wealth of experience from the professional ranks. He served as an executive in the NFL with the Houston Texans, in the NBA with the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, and in professional hockey with the Houston Aeros hockey team.
"Steve joined us less than a year ago after a multi-decadal career in professional sports," Crow said, "He was involved in guiding multiple professional sports at the executive level building programs, building teams, building facilities, designing facilities, building community relationships.
"That experience matched with what we have learned about Steve since his appointment here as Chief Operating Officer for Athletics. He makes our ability to move forward quicker rather than slower."
Patterson naturally has a strong and positive vision of ASU's athletics but knows that none of his goals and aspirations can be achieved without winning programs.
"We need to be consistently competitive," Patterson explained, "we need to be top ranked in the Director's Cup every year. We need to vie for national championships. And while we are doing this we need to have some fun and I think we have missed that a little bit with the teams we had out there this year.
"We want our athletes to be Sun Devils for life and uphold the traditions of this university that we hold so dear. We want to serve the community and operate with integrity, but at the same time be fiscally responsible. We need to grow our revenues and do a better job giving the support our student-athletes need. We need to help them reach the heights that they never thought were otherwise possible and we can do that here."
Patterson, a graduate of University of Texas said there is no reason why ASU couldn't be a collegiate athletic powerhouse program such as his alma mater. He also realizes that the Sun Devil alumni and local community will have to have a part in this giant endeavor.
"I think we have all the resources we need and I don't see why we can't do it," Patterson claimed. "That is what I want to try and do here. We need people to give us a chance. We need people to get behind this effort and build something that we can all be proud of.
"I ask people to open your eyes, open your ears and hear what we have to say. We're making progress and we are changing. I ask you to open your minds to the possibilities of what we are trying to do here at ASU because we have such great assets, great leadership and great student-athletes.
"If you like what we are doing then I ask you to talk about it. As our football coach likes to say, we are speaking victory every day. That is where we are heading"
In the sixth-largest metropolitan in the country, saturated with four pro sports, there is little doubt that Arizona State athletics has its work cut out for them to achieve the success and growth it so desires. The University of Arizona's Director of Athletics Greg Byrne and his marketing efforts in ASU's backyard has certainly made the Sun Devil nation restless and undoubtedly present another hurdle for Patterson and his department to overcome.
Nonetheless, even the most skeptic of ASU fans out there would probably agree that Patterson's appointment not only gives the ASU athletic department a new sense of direction but also a better chance than before to meet those aforementioned challenges and stand a reasonable chance of concurring them.