The reports from The Athletic and Yahoo that came out on Wednesday about illegal recruiting going on at Arizona State were not a surprise. For over a year, I’ve had college and high school coaching circles suggest that all was not right at Always Something University. So, I can only go off of the reports from three very reputable reporters. I can only look at how the Herm Edwards era started and how it looks like it’s going to end.
Right now, Arizona State paid former head coach Todd Graham 14-million+ dollars to go away. At the time, and even today, it was the right decision by athletic director Ray Anderson. I was one of the few who celebrated the hire of Herm Edwards. I wrote “In Ray, I Trust” the day after the hiring became official.
Herm came in and hired a staff mixed with pro and college football men. He used his national media platform to put Arizona State onto networks and newspapers. He came in with the pro model.
Over time if you watched an Arizona State football game on network TV, you’d get a steady diet of Kevin Mawae, Derek Hagan, Marvin Lewis, and Antonio Pierce graphics and discussion about how amazing and cutting edge Arizona State were for their approach by having former NFL players and coaches as assistants.
Local TV started giving Always Something University a few more seconds each night in their sports blocks. While the results weren’t happening on the field, the feeling was Herm, and his pro model was building something special.
I sat at Herm’s table for the football awards banquet in 2019 and saw a steady stream of grown men want their picture taking with him and giving their support. All was good. Or was it?
The rapid ascension of Antonio Pierce was odd to me. Yes, he was great on camera. Yes, he was affable. But why would he make a good head coach? Why would there be an open discussion about him being the heir apparent to Herm after such a short period of time? Shouldn’t winning big bowl games and having a stellar record be the first item of business?
Today, the Sun Devils are 17-13 under Herm. They haven’t gone to a big bowl game. Yes, they have recruited kids with stars next to their names, but that doesn’t mean a damn thing other than to big cigar alumni and recruiting websites. Herm’s famous quote is no lie. “You play to win the game.” 17 wins, 13 losses says it all.
Pierce could recruit, but more than a few in the coaching industry outside of Tempe were chirping that all was not kosher on the recruiting front. One former assistant coach told me that Pierce was gaining so much power within the program that in one staff meeting, Edwards said, “What AP says is what I say”.
Pierce attended the University of Arizona, so when his name popped up in January for the vacant job in Tucson, I wasn’t surprised. One person within the ASU athletics department said to me by phone, “It would’ve been a real blow to our program if AP had taken the Arizona job.”
I wonder if that person feels the same way today?
The NCAA is investigating Arizona State football over allegations of recruiting violations during the dead period.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) June 16, 2021
Our story on the issues at Arizona State, which faces an NCAA investigation after a dossier of incriminating documents emerged. Sources revealed a polarized culture of mistrust, that includes tweet trolls from a HOFer. https://t.co/KrvI0Fex8Y
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) June 17, 2021
So now what? Michael Crow told former head coach Todd Graham in a meeting before he hired him, “If you break the rules, we will fire you.”
What does the President of Always Something University do with Herm, Antonio Pierce, and others currently on the staff after the reporting that the Athletic and Yahoo have done?
Guys like Doug Haller, Pete Thamel, and Bruce Feldman don’t mess around and make stuff up; they are the best of the best in their business, so if you’re going with the, “they just have it in for us” or “everyone else cheats,” I do not have it.
Does Herm step down? Does Pierce get shown the door? Is every coach who was listed in the dossier going to lose their job? Herm could say, “I didn’t know that this was happening under my watch.” He could say that, but he’s the captain of the ship.
I would think he’d sail off to Carmel and back to a network analyst chair rather than watch those around be removed. I had a few big cigar alums yesterday afternoon suggest that Anderson should be the fall guy. I think Ray has done far more good than bad (ASU baseball fans will disagree).
Yes, Herm was his hire. But in my mind, a college athletic director can’t be brought down over an assistant coach who was doing illegal things. If Edwards is out, then who takes over the program in late June? How do you build a staff in summer? Are players at key positions for the 2021 season going to bolt? All very fair questions to ask.
It’s very early in this story, but then again, it’s not. The upcoming season was supposed to be the breakthrough year in Tempe. No more trips to El Paso in December. No more NFL Combines with just a player or two.
The expected revenue from a big football season would jump-start the much-needed rebuild of the basketball arena on campus. The hype and buildup were at a level that I haven’t seen.
Like you, I’m interested to see what shoe drops next. Always Something University keeps it interesting…