Arizona State President Michael Crow wanted the school's new athletic director to possess "executive experience, business experience, athletic experience -- all rolled up into one individual." Ray Anderson meets the criteria. On Thursday, Crow introduced Anderson as the Vice President of Athletics at Arizona State and they both spoke at length on how academics are always going to be the top priority.
"First, is to deliver an athletic-academic program, not a sports team by itself," Crow said. "We are now at record levels of graduation, record levels of grade point, record levels of academic success for our athletes. Ray's first assignment is to continue that progress and to advance that progress, as he demonstrated in his own life."
An educational mindset is customary for Anderson, who attended Stanford and went on to Harvard law school. Anderson currently leads the NFL's operations department after beginning his professional career practicing law. Contrary to earlier reports, Anderson will maintain his NFL title until after the Super Bowl (Feb. 5) and then he will begin guiding Arizona State athletics.
With such an impressive resume, Anderson had plenty of options. But the opportunity at Arizona State was one Anderson couldn't turn down.
"I'm excited, eager and proud to be the new Vice President of Athletics for Arizona State University. I'm just delighted." Anderson said. "I thank you, President Crow, for the opportunity. This an awesome opportunity."
Going forward, Anderson knows the tasks at hand are going to carry over to multiple platforms.
"We want excellence in the classroom - excellence in our athletic venues - excellence in our business and development --- excellence in our community activism." Anderson said. "The goal for our student athletes is simple: make it the most excellent opportunity and experience they could possibly have."
Anderson relishes the chance to help positively influence the collegiate athletes' lives on and off the field. The combination of sports and books Crow stresses coincides with the way Anderson goes about business, which led him to accepting the offer.
"The differentiator for me was the academic overlay and the real commitment to academic," Anderson said. "The opportunity to have a different group of student-athletes that at a point of life where they aren't necessarily going down the professional path -- but they are just trying to find their path to what they are going do in life long term.
"To be able to have an impact and influence there is what really drove this decision for me and made it so special."
Transitioning from the professional ranks to college will take adjustments, however Anderson does understand the foundation of the rules. Anderson possesses familiarity with the system because he is in charge of the NFL's NCAA College relations works. He also admitted he still needs to learn more about the guidelines.
"[I] will get deep into the weaves and learn those things. I have spent a lot of time with the NCAA folks. I got a text message from my old buddy Derrick Crawford, who is one of the enforcement officers, assuring him that we are going to be on the good side all the time." Anderson said.
The hardest part about leaving the NFL for Arizona State may have been the money discrepancy. The NFL paid Anderson significantly more than he will make at Arizona State. However, the lower salary doesn't bother Anderson because he believes he is receiving fair compensation.
"That was a heck of a question. I'm not a guy who gets caught up on money too much, although my wife is a banker's daughter," Anderson said. "We have been blessed in our lives. The things we have been able to do -- The rewards financially we have been able to accumulate. I don't need NFL money. I need gratification and need the chance to be part of something really special, dynamic and life changing in some ways."
Throughout the press conference Anderson appeared to be very sincere about his desire for the job. Ex-athletic director Steve Patterson bolted town to take the same position at the University of Texas, yet Anderson ranks his duties at Arizona State atop any list.
"This, for me, is a dream destination. This is not a stepping-stone for me - this is my destination." Anderson said. "I'm going to be here as long as I'm effective and as long as my boss to be (Crow) thinks I'm deserving of this honor."
- Anderson will be meeting some of the coaches on Thursday afternoon and particularly praised Todd Graham for his work over the past two seasons.
- Anderson plans on consistently attending and supporting all of the Arizona State teams, regardless of the sport.
- The new stadium plan excites Anderson. He plans on participating in making the vision turn into reality. "I'm going to be involved in some really good stuff over the next 10-12 years here."
- Sales and recruiting is an area of expertise for Anderson. "I like recruiting. I like selling. I enjoy being around, interacting and engaging with people. I will be there in full force."
- Even though his alma matter is Stanford, Anderson hopes Arizona State can surpass them athletically and strive to match them scholastically.
- At a young age Anderson's father passed away. Anderson's dad wanted to be a lawyer, so from then on Anderson carried out the image for himself. In school the following year, Anderson was taught the importance of school from a teacher named Ms. Meyer. "[Ms. Meyer] spread the word amongst the teachers and the coaches. From that time on -- my coaches, my teachers, my administrators, the people in my community said 'you are going to be a lawyer.' I never lost track."