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Maybe it's time for Ray Anderson to move on

Ralph Amsden Avatar
August 29, 2023

I wanted to move on.

Kenny Dillingham told the media in his first-ever game-week press conference that anyone who was still upset a full 24 hours after the announcement that Arizona State would self-impose a bowl ban in the 2023 season should “move on.”

“The adversity is behind us,” said Dillingham. “It’s like I told our team- I said we were going to give everybody one day. Get your feelings out, including me… get it off your chest, get it out there, and let’s move on… So to Sun Devil Nation, it’s ‘move on.’ Let’s show support for the team, because that’s what this is about.”

Dillingham is right. Football season is about football fans supporting the football players on their favorite football team- something it seemed like Sun Devil fans were all ready to do before the Sunday morning announcement that there would be no bowl to look forward to at the end of the 2023 season.

24 hours of weeping and gnashing of teeth over the program’s self-flagellation adversely affected a team that is almost entirely made up of players and coaches with no connection to the offending era. It seems reasonable… and I thought I could move on.

But to quote Michael Corleone in Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

This morning, Arizona State University’s maddenly chaotic athletic department chose to release a statement explaining the timing of the self-imposed bowl ban, making “moving on” slightly more difficult.

It turns out that the 24-hours of emotion, and the litany of local and national columnists lambasting Arizona State for making the decision, caused Ray Anderson to go back on his Sunday morning statement that said “In light of the ongoing investigation and our membership obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the matter, we will not be commenting further at this time.”

Ray Anderson left Kenny Dillingham and his players to speak on the bowl ban, while hiding behind an obligation to confidentiality that seemingly vanished the moment he felt the need to defend himself.

So what was in this bowl ban ‘defense?’ Let’s get into it.

Regarding ASU’s self-imposed bowl ban, please note the following:
The deadline for ASU undergraduate student athletes to enter the transfer portal was in April 2023.
The NCAA case involving the University of Tennessee, which was particularly relevant to ASU’s case, was pending until the Committee on Infractions announced its decision on July 14, 2023.
Arizona State’s athletic department would like you to know that any transfers or seniors that would have possibly left ASU due to the lack of opportunity for postseason play, couldn’t have done so unless Ray Anderson had announced this decision prior to April 2023.
What is the reason Ray Anderson didn’t announce this decision prior to that date, or even prior to the 2022 season (despite having all the same information about the alleged violations that occurred within the program that he has had for over two years)? Well, that’s because Tennessee’s punishments for violations under previous head coach Jeremy Pruitt weren’t announced until July 2023.

From ASU Statement on bowl Ban

And those punishments are apparently “particularly relevant to ASU’s case.”

Tennessee was cited for 18 Level-1 infractions, and over 200 individual infractions. Their scandal stemmed from an athletics department staff member informing the office of the chancellor about a conversation they overheard in the football program about student-athletes being “paid.”

Tennessee conducted their own internal investigation, retaining outside counsel, confiscating employee cell phones, and compiling records to turn over to the NCAA.

Keep that in mind as you read the rest of Arizona State’s defense of the timing of their bowl ban.

In the University of Tennessee case the NCAA Committee on Infractions imposed “an enhanced financial penalty” of $8 million in lieu of a postseason competition ban. It also required enhanced recruiting penalties, e.g., a 120-day reduction of evaluation days (28 fall days and 92 spring days), a 40-week reduction of unofficial visits, a loss of 28 scholarships, and a 28-week “reduction of communications” with recruits, i.e., no communications.
ASU believes that if recruiting penalties of the type set out in the Tennessee case were applied to ASU, such penalties would seriously impair Coach Dillingham’s ability to build ASU’s football program.
ASU self-imposed a postseason ban to help pave the way for program stability and greater clarity going forward.

From ASU’s Statement on bowl ban

In summary, Arizona State believes that its violations might be on par with both the amount and severity of those in the Tennessee case, and is hoping that a self-imposed bowl ban will be acceptable in lessening the level of recruiting sanctions Kenny Dillingham has to operate under moving forward. But there’s no guarantee the NCAA won’t accept that sacrifice as a replacement for the enhanced financial penalty rather than the enhanced recruiting penalties, or that Arizona State won’t simply receive both anyway due to the fact that Ray Anderson never offered anything near the level of cooperation that Tennessee did.

When the NCAA announced University of Tennessee’s extensive penalties, they also praised Tennessee for “exemplary cooperation” including transparency in the investigation, the retirement of Athletic Director and Tennessee legend Phil Fulmer, the firing ‘for cause’ of head coach Jeremy Pruitt, as well as the termination of all the assistants and staffers they found to be involved through their own internal investigations.

Tennessee moved on from its athletic director, Arizona State’s athletic director is as entrenched as ever.

Tennessee fired their head coach for cause, and did not pay his $12.6 million buyout. Arizona State let their head coach take the field sixteen more times before negotiating a $4+ million buyout despite representing to the public that Herm Edwards personal belief is that it be best for him to no longer be the team’s football coach. A resignation would have cost the school nothing.

Tennessee fired several assistant coaches and support staff for cause. Arizona State let go, or allowed to resign, all staff members that were directly implicated in the internal dossier that triggered the NCAA investigation, but kept Antonio Pierce, the architect and ringleader of the entire scandal, on staff for a full season with restricted recruiting duties.

The reason Arizona State had to offer up as a sacrifice the potential of Kenny Dillingham and the Sun Devils’ first bowl game wasn’t for the sake of negotiation, the bowl ban happened because Ray Anderson refused to be proactive in addressing the merits of the scandal that took place under the purview of his his longtime friend and client, Herm Edwards. And the sick part is, the NCAA doesn’t even want to ban bowls anymore. The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions Chief Hearing Officer Kay Norton also came out and said that postseason bans are going to be reserved for only the most egregious of cases, and the language in the NCAA constitution now states, ‘Divisional and, as appropriate, conference regulations must ensure to the greatest extent possible that penalties imposed for infractions do not punish programs or student-athletes not involved nor implicated in the infractions.’

Very frankly, Arizona State had nothing left to give up, so Ray Anderson gave up something the NCAA doesn’t want.

And so here I am, with the rest of Sun Devil Nation, attempting to move on. But I fear moving on won’t be possible unless Arizona State takes a cue from the “particularly relevant” case at Tennessee, and chooses to “move on” from their athletic director.

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