When Arizona State hired 63-year-old Herm Edwards to replace Todd Graham in Tempe plenty of folks mocked the move.
The former head coach of the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs had been out of football entirely since 2008 before the Sun Devils came calling in December 2017. Edwards had not been in the college game since 1989 and had no real evidence that he would succeed in the Power Five.
For a time, it looked like the naysayers were very off base.
The Sun Devils went 17-13 in his first three seasons with some promising national recruiting success. The program nabbed top-50 quarterback Jayden Daniels out of Southern California while also having some national success in Florida, Philadelphia, New York City, Texas, Ohio, St. Louis, and Metro Atlanta.
Turns out, there may have been a reason for that.
On Wednesday, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported that the NCAA is investigating Arizona State for recruiting violations after an anonymous person sent multiple documents to the Arizona State athletic department. Everything from pictures and emails could lead to a plethora of NCAA violations.
“The documentation includes specific evidence of multiple examples of high school prospects taking illicit on-campus recruiting trips to the Arizona State campus,” writes Thamel. “Those came during the pandemic-inspired dead period that ended June 1. For more than a year prior, NCAA rules explicitly banned players from visiting on campus because of COVID-19. The dossier, according to sources, lays out pieces of both the players’ trips to campus and how those trips were paid for.”
Edwards and assistant coach Antonio Pierce were just running wild during the COVID-19 pause. The Sun Devils were hosting prospects and their families on both unofficial and official visits when all in-person recruiting was banned by the NCAA. Arizona State may have even been paying for the visits. Edwards was posing for pictures with these high school athletes while they were on campus. Meanwhile, the entire football staff knew about these visits and it made things very uncomfortable in the office. Turns out, someone on the staff may have released the information.
“It’s clear whoever provided it had a ton of access and knowledge of the football program,” a source told Thamel. “The stuff in there wouldn’t be provided by anyone outside the football program.”
Over the last couple of seasons, Arizona State has had its fair share of staff turnover. As Pierce has climbed up the ladder, it has alienated many in the football building. Recruiting meant everything to the Sun Devils, but it is clear that they have crossed the line.
All of this happened while the program seemingly had zero success in its backyard. In the class of 2021, the state of Arizona produced seven blue-chip prospects and the Sun Devils signed none of them. Most of their recruiting success was happening with a national approach. Meanwhile, the program had 10 decommitments in the class. For 2022, the Sun Devils have three four-star verbal commitments — those players come from California and South Florida.
How the NCAA decides to handle this will be very interesting to follow. Arizona State essentially had a major competitive advantage over everyone else as all other programs had to recruit using Zoom only. Meanwhile, Edwards went all-in on cheating while some on his staff felt uncomfortable with what was going on.
This goes as a lesson to all of us. When a program starts to have national recruiting success while having seemingly zero luck in their state, there might be something fishy going on. Seems like those naysayers are going to end up being right regarding Arizona State’s hire of Edwards.
The summer usually delivers one good football recruiting rules violation. Arizona State comes through for us in June.