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    ASU Athletics Has Hit Rock Bottom

    ASU Athletics Has Hit Rock Bottom - Line Drive Sports Marketing

    I’m going to do my best here not to sound too much like a fan. This will be hard because, like a lot of you reading this, I’ve been going to Arizona State University baseball, football, and basketball games since I was a child. I attended ASU, I worked in the athletic department, and I taught at ASU as an adjunct professor.


    Most of my children went to ASU as did a great deal of my money.


    So it’s a little painful to watch what’s happening to the university I love so much. Many want to lay the blame on Ray Anderson. Others blame it on a meddling Michael Crow. I think there’s plenty of blame to go around in an athletic department that is and has been underperforming for a long time.


    It’s especially difficult given the success our rival has been experiencing in football, basketball, and baseball despite their inability to do proper bookkeeping.


    From a fan’s perspective, the performance of ASU’s major college sports teams is nothing short of maddening … from a sponsorship perspective, ASU’s poor performance could lead them to lose share in a competitive marketplace that features plenty of teams with more engaged fanbases. For every advantage that comes with operating in a market with a full suite of professional sports teams, there is the pronounced disadvantage of giving sponsors lots of options when it comes to their sports marketing investment.


    It is undeniably true that ASU has always been ‘cyclical’ in its success. We’re just seeing a down cycle that we’ve seen plenty of times in the past, right? Well, yes and no.


    Here are some sobering facts. In the last six years, ASU is 31-36 in football averaging just five (5) wins per season; a very mediocre basketball record of 105 – 84, and a gut-wrenching 165 – 132 record in baseball. ASU hasn’t played in a meaningful bowl game since the 2013 Holiday Bowl … in the last six years they’ve made the NCAA tournament once and were eliminated in the first round; baseball has only been to two regionals in the past six years and hasn’t been to a super regional tournament since 2011.


    This bodes poorly for fans which in turn bodes poorly for sponsors. Winning (at least once in a while) is critical to attracting and retaining fans to do things like buy tickets and watch games on TV. This is especially true in the Phoenix market.


    The biggest concern I have with ASU Athletics is that given the seismic changes in the college landscape, they’ve done nothing to enhance operations that generate the revenue their coaches need to compete. In fact, they’ve been without an Athletic Director (arguably the most important position in the rev-gen ecosystem) longer than any other D1 school.


    What’s more problematic here is that Michael Crow continues to insist that the reason for this long-standing vacancy during such an important time is that ASU is “done with the historical model of athletics being an auxiliary, adjunct enterprise institution.” I don’t even know what that means and candidly, nobody else does either.


    This is yet another example of ASU trying to be the smartest person in the room when they are anything but.


    They weren’t the smartest person in the room when they opted to move their rights deal from IMG to the PAC12, they weren’t when they thumbed their nose at NIL and rolled out a “pro model” as a foundation for football success, and they weren’t when they fired Tim Esmay or Todd Graham, who, at the very least, knew how to win.


    In one very real sense, ASU’s failure to act in a timely and decisive manner negatively impacts their current coaches, who, in my opinion, are hamstrung to compete in a marketplace that requires the following: money, recruiting skills, retention skills, more money and coaching skills, in that order.


    My message to ASU is a simple one: Quit trying to show everyone how smart you are … being ‘innovative’ has only brought your incompetence to the forefront. You’re constantly trying to forge new paths for athletic success on the ground that is ever-shifting.

    IT’S NOT WORKING…(yes I’m yelling)

    You have failed your fans, you have failed your sponsors (and the good people who are selling your sponsorship assets), and probably most disturbingly you have failed to uphold the tradition of excellence established by the many who came before you … all because you wanted to show us how smart you were, when in fact you were anything but.


    As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read my opinions on all things sports. If you have a comment or would like to discuss this further, please drop me a line at or call my cell at 602.284.6722

    About the author: Ed Olsen is the CEO of Line Drive Sports Marketing. He is a former adjunct professor at Arizona State University and has lots of opinions on all things sports.

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