Wilner Hotline – ASU’s mess requires a presidential cleanup, Arizona’s recruiting success, Dorrell’s admission and OSU’s collapse

Arizona Sports News online

The Hotline mailbag is published each Friday. Send questions to pac12hotline@bayareanewsgroup.com or hit me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline. Due to volume — and in some cases, the need for research — not all questions will be answered the week of submission. Thanks for your understanding.

Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Is there any chance ASU athletic director Ray Anderson fires coach Herm Edwards? I can’t see anyone better wanting to come work for an AD who might/should be on very thin ice himself, and I can’t imagine ASU president Michael Crow entrusting Anderson to lead another coaching search. — @Esdee1467

Arizona State’s situation is a complete mess and completely of its own doing. The self-immolation is stunning, even for a program that has tripped over itself often over the decades.

But let’s step back from the specifics and address a few broad issues:

— It’s safe to stop referring to the violations as alleged. Clearly, ASU has proof that rules were broken or it wouldn’t have gutted the coaching staff. The remaining question is one of severity: Were Level I infractions committed and, if so, how many?

— We also know more than one coach was involved, since five have been fired or resigned. That makes the violations widespread and creates the potential for the NCAA to assess penalties related to lack of institutional control, lack of oversight, failure to monitor, failure to monitor and/or failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance. Those are serious.

— According to published reports, the NCAA has been told Edwards participated in improper meetings with recruits. But even if he wasn’t involved personally, he should have known about the rampant violations committed by his staff. So he’s either guilty of direct participation or some combination of neglect and ignorance. As a result, he needs to go.

Whether the end comes soon or not until the end of next season, Edwards cannot continue to lead one of ASU’s most public entities. As long as he’s in charge, the stain will remain.

— Responsibility for managing the scandal no longer falls to Anderson. It’s in the hands of university president Michael Crow, who hired Anderson, allowed Anderson to hire his buddy, Edwards, and signed off on Anderson’s “New Leadership Model.”

Crow views the college sports world through a hubris-filled lens wrapped in the veneer of innovation.

For those unfamiliar, Crow hired former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, he approved Scott’s contract, and he served as Scott’s chief supporter at the presidential level for many years. He was often the loudest voice in the room, and his tenure — he has been on the job since 2002 — allowed him to carry the discussion.

The Hotline has spent many years covering Pac-12 inner-workings, speaking to presidents and chancellors and athletic directors and former campus officials. And it is our belief that Crow is partly, if not largely responsible for the miasma that enveloped the conference over the final six or eight years of Scott’s tenure.

He backed Scott strongly in the boardroom, gave Scott the cover to back-burner the athletic directors and enabled the spending habits in San Francisco that undermined faith in the commissioner across so many campuses. (Scott and Crow got along well, in part, because they are so much alike.)

From this vantage point, it was only after a series of astounding missteps by Scott that Crow began to distance himself publicly from the man he hired.

And that’s how we see the current situation. With the scandal expanding to the point of tarnishing the reputation of the university writ large — a university that Crow has rebuilt, expanded and improved — he will order the necessary changes.

So Anderson won’t be firing Edwards. The decision is with Crow, who must also decide if he wants Anderson to oversee the hiring of the next head coach.

At any other university, the answer would be obvious: The athletic director would be swept out with the scandal that devastated his/her department. It’s the only way to make a clean break and refresh the culture. But with Crow, you never know. After all, he signed off on Anderson hiring Edwards in the first place. Dismissing Anderson would require an admission of error.

That said, ASU has done masterful work backing itself into a corner with the NCAA. It should fire Edwards and very well might fire Edwards. But what quality coach would take the job without knowing the penalties to come? Without knowing whether there will be a postseason ban? Without knowing the extent of the scholarship reductions?

Our strong suspicion is the Notice of Allegations, which serves as the NCAA’s formal issuance of charges, will be delivered before the start of next season.

And if the NOA includes Level I infractions, then keeping Edwards becomes untenable — even more untenable than it already is.

Would ASU promote one of the remaining assistant coaches or staff members to the role of interim head coach? Edwards has hired several pals from the NFL. Maybe Marvin Lewis or Brian Billick would take over for six months, with a re-start scheduled for next winter.

There are no good solutions for the current players or the long-term health of the program.

For the university and its fans and alumni, that’s deeply unfortunate. They have a right to be irate with the leadership, or lack thereof.

Who is replacing the coaches who left at ASU? With Edwards still the coach as of now, doesn’t that make it hard to find guys who might only be there for a very short time? — @TrojanLee77

You might think so, but the benefit of putting assistant coaches on administrative leave during the season is their short-term replacements can take over full-time when those assistants are fired (or resign).

As for the coordinator situations, well, the Sun Devils have that covered, too.

Edwards could replace departed defensive playcaller Antonio Pierce with his longtime friend Marvin Lewis, the former NFL coach who is serving as a special assistant and was ASU’s co-defensive coordinator in 2020.

To replace departed offensive playcaller Zak Hill, the Sun Devils already hired Glenn Thomas away from UNLV, a program itself on life support.

Is Arizona’s football recruiting success unprecedented in the Pac-10/12 era, or have there been other examples of programs that had flatlined only to blow recruiting expectations out of the water? — John Vietor

We have pondered this issue since December, when it became clear the one-win Wildcats would sign a top-25 class.

It’s worth noting that Stanford was 3-9 last season and finished No. 23 in the Rivals rankings. But for a 1-11 team to produce the 19th-ranked class is next-level stuff.

So here’s what we did: We identified every Pac-12 team this century that produced a zero- or one-win season, then cross-matched with its subsequent Rivals recruiting ranking. (The 247Sports database didn’t generate national rankings early in the 2000s.)

Here you go:

Cal: 1-10 in 2001/class of ’02 ranked 63rd
Washington: 1-10 in 2004/class of ’05 ranked 66th
Stanford: 1-11 in 2006/class of ’07 ranked 52nd
Washington: 0-12 in 2008/class of ’09 ranked 68th
WSU: 1-11 in 2009/class of ’10 ranked 90th
Colorado: 1-11 in 2012/class of ’13 ranked 67th
Cal: 1-11 in 2013/class of ’14 ranked 66th
OSU: 1-11 in 2017/class of ’18 ranked 67th
Arizona: 0-5 in 2020/class of ’21 ranked 67th
Arizona: 1-11 in 2021/class of ’22 ranked 19th

The Hotline is always suspicious when football programs under new leadership suddenly outperform their historical standard in recruiting — hello, ASU — unless there is an obvious, concrete explanation.

In Arizona’s case, it’s clear that dynamics within the division throughout the fall … USC with an interim coach, UCLA with a coach in limbo and, especially, ASU with the lingering NCAA scandal … created an unprecedented deficit of options for many Southern California recruits.

Credit Jedd Fisch for taking advantage.

Is Oregon State currently completing the weakest follow-up to an Elite Eight season in the history of the world? Why is there a lack of consistency in anything related to Wayne Tinkle’s program? — @Jschamber2

Let me give that some thought … Yes! Yes, it is.

High-level success at Oregon State is just this side of impossible; the in-state talent is limited, and impact players from Seattle and California have better options.

The best the Beavers can hope for is a well-timed winning streak of the likes they conjured last March.

The transfer portal could help the program over the long haul. Jonathan Smith has figured out a formula, after all. He offers a second chance to players who passed on OSU in the first place but grew disenchanted with their choice of schools.

For our vantage point, that’s the best path to some form of sustained success for Tinkle.

Did you read Colorado coach Karl Dorrell’s comments about why some of the Buffaloes entered the transfer portal? Thoughts on that admission of ineptness? — @waltypants18

I did, and I applaud Dorrell for his candor. At the same time, that’s not an admission the frustrated fans want to hear, and it speaks to a misread on his part.

The Hotline has spoken to many coaches and recruiters in recent years who are convinced recruiting starts in your own locker room. For whatever reason, Dorrell didn’t make that his priority.

That said, the comments probably wouldn’t be quite so unnerving for CU fans if they didn’t immediately follow the poor on-field performance, the departure of key players (Brenden Rice, Jarek Broussard) and the staff changes that were not seen as reassuring.

Taken together, Buffaloes fans aren’t unreasonable in their concerns about the long-term trajectory.

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