Anderson Sees Opportunity at Arizona State

More than nine weeks since former Athletic Director Steve Patterson bolted for Texas, Arizona State finally has its man. Ray Anderson, Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the NFL, was introduced as ASU's newest Athletic Director and University Vice President at the Hyatt Regency Resort at Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale on Thursday.

Anderson, who has been a member of the NFL's Football Operations Department since 2006, joined the NFL after serving as the as the Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of the Atlanta Falcons for four years. He began his professional career as an attorney at Kilpatrick & Cody in Atlanta, Georgia and worked primarily in labor law litigation.

"When the position was first articulated to me by Jed Hughes, it was very clear that this was not being positioned as what you'd think about in terms of a more typical athletic director's position," said Anderson at his introductory press conference on Thursday. "It was articulated that you were potentially having the opportunity to join folks who have real vision, that have real passion, that have real commitment to the student-athlete experience and that really resonated with me because I'm a product of that and have been a benefactor of that and it's really focused and shaped my life.

"So when he presented the profile, I said, 'I'm in.'" A Los Angeles native, Anderson starred at Stanford University where he was a three-year football letterman and a two-year baseball letterman for the Cardinal. He earned a BA in political science from Stanford in 1976 and a juris doctorate degree from Harvard Law School in 1979.

Anderson co-founded the sports law practice at Heller, Ehrman in 1980 and entered the sports agency business in 1984 when he opened the West Coast office for Sports Advisors Group. In 1987, he launched his own agency, AR Sports, specializing in the representation of NFL coaches and payers and later adding Major League Baseball players. Anderson merged his agency with Octagon in 2001before joining the Falcons organization.

"The things that really resonated with me as we went through the process was the fact that it's student-athlete driven," he said. "We want excellence in the classroom. We want excellence in our athletic venues. We want excellence in our business development. We want excellence in our community. We want community activism. We want fan engagement. We want to be embedded in the society. We want to make a difference. That's what really, really got me excited about this position and this opportunity.

"I am excited, I am eager, and I am proud to be the new Vice President of Athletics for Arizona State University. I am just delighted. This is an awesome, awesome opportunity.

"We've given Ray a fantastically simple assignment," added Arizona State University President Dr. Michael Crow."Run an academically rigorous and successful athletic program, compete at a national level against the best in all of the sports that we compete in, connect to the university and community in ways that we haven't in the past and then lastly, it's got to work financially."

Just a couple of the major projects that Anderson will help oversee as the school's newest athletic director will be the renovation of Sun Devil Stadium and the Athletics Facilities District along Rio Salado Parkway, a mixed-use development site that will help fund the renovation or rebuilding of many of the university's athletic facilities, including Sun Devil Stadium.

"Those were a big part of the attraction here," described Anderson. "Those are the things that made it different from a more traditional athletic director's position. One of the exciting things that happens in the NFL, it seems, is that there's always a new stadium project. There are new innovations going on and while I might not be technically trained and skilled in those areas, I've been able to sit in rooms with some of the most technically-sound and advanced and smart folks, listening to them and hearing presentations and seeing presentations about those projects and it's just incredibly exciting."

"More than any other thing, we weren't looking for a particular skill-set," said Crow. "We were looking for a breadth of experience and intellect matched together into a single person. It's because I don't know exactly everything that we're going to confront. We have capital projects that we need to pursue. We have financial challenges that we need to overcome. We have improvements that we need to make in our athletics performance. We have improvements that we need to make in our academic performance. For all that we have achieved, we've got all those things that we need to do."

While Anderson's only previous positions in sports may be at the professional level, he doesn't come to Arizona State without at least some experience in amateur athletics. As part of his duties for the NFL, Anderson was in charge of the league's NCAA relations, providing him with a unique insight into college athletics.

"One of the things I have an advantage of is that as part of my role at the NFL, I'm in charge of the NCAA college relations work, so I've spent a lot of time with the NCAA folks," he said. "In fact, I got a text message this morning from my old buddy Derek Crawford, who's one of their new enforcement officers, assuring him that we're going to be on the good side all the time. But that's just an example. I'm on the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame Board. I'm on the American Football Coaches Association Board and as a result of that, I've been really involved with the NCAA for a number of years."

Anderson will remain at his current position with the NFL through the end of this season's playoffs and will officially begin his new position at Arizona State on February 5th.

"This, for me, is a dream destination," he commented. "I have been blessed in my life to have been in some good places. I will forever be thankful to my current boss, Roger Goodell. I will forever be thankful to boss before that, Arthur Blank, at the Falcons. But I will be even more forever thankful to my teachers coming up, and my coaches coming up, and my administrators coming up, and the people in my neighborhood that said, 'You can do some special things if you're a scholar first and foremost, and then if you happen to do pretty well in athletics you can put those things together and the world will open for you,' and it has done that."

"This is not a stepping stone for me to anywhere else. This is my destination. I'm going to be here as long as I am effective, as long as I am teammate, as long as a collaborator, and as long as my boss to-be thinks I am deserving of this honor."

As for being a Stanford alumnus, Anderson wants the entire Sun Devil nation to know that he's 100% maroon and gold now.

"I love my alma mater, but there are limitations," Anderson admitted. "Once we get in the competitive arena, it's on. We certainly want to, in terms of the academic standards, to aspire to be like a Stanford. But when it comes to athletics, we aspire to beat Stanford and anyone else consistently and emphatically."

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