6 months later, ASU names an athletic director: Graham Rossini

Graham Rossini was introduced as Arizona State’s new athletic director Thursday at Mountain America Stadium. “I don’t take this opportunity lightly,” he said. (Photo courtesy of PHNX Sports)

TEMPE – The wait is finally over – Arizona State has named its new athletic director.

ASU graduate Graham Rossini was officially introduced Thursday at Mountain America Stadium in front of the Pat Tillman statue, with family, ASU personnel and a handful of media members present for the announcement.

ASU President Micheal Crow tapped Rossini at a crucial time for ASU athletics, with an upcoming move to the Big 12, NIL and the transfer portal, making the job in Tempe unlike any other in the past.

“We have been reconstructing ASU sports around a new model,” Crow said. “A model in which we are going to operate ASU sports like the rest of the university, highly entrepreneurial, centralized support, centralized facility support, centralized everything.

“We were looking for and spending some time assessing the skill set of our internal staff, looking at external folks, but spending time focused on who could be the best executive to take Sun Devil Athletics forward into the world ahead.”

Crow raised eyebrows by not using a search firm and waiting more than six months to make the hire. Many expressed interest in the job, he said, but when asked how many other interviews he conducted, he said, “zero.”

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Rossini replaces Ray Anderson, who resigned in November as the vice president of university athletics after a tumultuous tenure that included an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations and a self-imposed postseason ban for the 2023 football season. Over 10 years, Anderson faced criticism and backlash, mostly due to ASU’s slow commitment to NIL support.

“I don’t take this opportunity lightly,” Rossini said. “I’m excited to get to work, I’m excited for the challenges, and more importantly, the opportunities that are in front of us.”

Rossini has worked at the highest level in both professional and collegiate sports. He worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks for 13 years, 10 of those as the vice president of special projects and fan experience. He later spent a year with Lincoln City FC in England, before returning to ASU and working up to the role of chief business officer.

“I’m a Sun Devil, first and foremost,” Rossini said. “I feel I have got the credentials to lead us into what comes next, but out the gate, I’m a proud Sun Devil. That’s always been a big part of my background and my DNA. I can’t wait to represent this entire community of Sun Devils who care so much about what we do here at Arizona State University.”

Rossini’s path ahead will undoubtedly be challenging, particularly in bringing ASU athletics up to speed with NIL funding.

“We are a hundred percent committed to NIL,” Rossini said. “As Dr. Crow mentioned over the last six, seven months, really reinvesting our focus there. … When you look at what (ASU football) coach (Kenny) Dillingham and (ASU men’s basketball) coach (Bobby) Hurley have been able to accomplish recently, it’s not by coincidence.

“These are elite coaches, these are skilled recruiters, they’ve got great networks in their respective sports. They’re showing with all things equal, when we are reasonable and competitive in NIL, high-level recruits want to be Sun Devils.”

Graham Rossini was Arizona State’s choice for athletic director because “we found … that the best executive to lead us was one that was with us,” ASU president Michael Crow said. (Photo courtesy of PHNX Sports)

Graham Rossini was Arizona State’s choice for athletic director because “we found … that the best executive to lead us was one that was with us,” ASU president Michael Crow said. (Photo courtesy of PHNX Sports)

A new pitch ASU recruits will hear alongside NIL is the jump to the Big 12. Other Pac-12 schools such as Colorado, Utah and in-state rivals Arizona will also transition to the new conference.

The move will come with a variety of changes. The former Pac-12 schools will have new norms – from conference opponents to revised travel schedules – compared to previous years.

However, Dillingham is confident Rossini will navigate new terrain effectively and expressed his support with a surprise appearance at Thursday’s press conference.

“He is task-driven and he gets things accomplished,” Dillingham said. “There are people who talk well, people who give good speeches, people who can say the right thing, then there’s people who actually get things done. That was one of my first impressions of Graham, not only that he is a Sun Devil and is passionate about the place. But he actually solves problems and actually closes deals.”

ASU was a member of some version of the Pac-12 for over 45 years. The Sun Devils won 65 conference titles, led by 21 in men’s wrestling, 10 in baseball, 13 in men’s golf and eight in women’s golf, to go along with 24 national championships.

Rossini, who hopes to add more hardware to their trophy case starting next season, expressed Thursday that the chance to lead Sun Devils athletics into a new era was worth the wait.

“I would’ve waited six more months for an opportunity of a lifetime,” Rossini said. “The process is irrelevant in my opinion to where we are today, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime, and that’s what I’ve been preparing myself and excited to get ready for.”

Sports Digital Reporter, Phoenix

Jack Reeves expects to graduate in August 2024 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. He previously graduated in May 2023 from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in sports public relations.