Amid the NCAA achievement and a slow 1-2 start, Herm Edwards exited as Arizona State football coach


Herm Edwards’ tenure as head coach at Arizona State started with grit, dressed up in optimism and ultimately ended Sunday amid a whirlwind of off-field issues and bad football.

Under the dark cloud of an important NCAA investigation and in the wake of both the cast and crew’s exit, Edwards’ time as a coach ended like so many others in college football – with a humiliating loss.

Arizona State announced Sunday that the school is making a “leadership change” through “mutual agreement,” according to athletic director Ray Anderson. Indeed, Edwards’ embarrassing 30-21 home loss to Eastern Michigan on Saturday – at the hands of the Eagles’ back-back quarterback – made Edwards’ inevitable departure a reality.

Edwards finished his Arizona stint (1-2) at 26-20 with one win in five years. His time there will be remembered so much because of the antics and off-court issues that the NCAA investigation led to five full-time coaches leaving the staff, including the coordinators. The roster quickly atrophied, as the program’s top quarterback, running back, defensive line and linebacker and two top wide receivers were transferred over the past year.

It took the loss that followed all that fleeing to Arizona to take out Edwards, 68, a former client of Anderson, who had served as an agent earlier in his career. When Anderson hired him in 2017, Edwards had not worked in college football since 1989.

The financial terms of Edwards’ departure were not disclosed; A spokesperson for the school said they still need to be identified.

Edwards’ hiring came with a bold news release Which he claimed would bring the NFL’s model – a new leadership model – Anderson said it would allow the Sun Devils “to operate more innovatively and efficiently than we have in the past.”

Instead, Edwards finished with a worse winning percentage (.565) than Todd Graham’s (.590), whom Anderson fired to hire Edwards, never winning more than eight games.

The status of the NCAA investigation in Arizona will be the subject of much industry scrutiny, as coaches try to analyze potential penalties as they evaluate the job. The Sun Devils have not received notice of the allegations from the NCAA, as the investigation began in June 2021 and does not appear to be nearing completion.

Edwards’ poor staff management led in part to the investigation, which came after he empowered former defense coordinator Antonio Pierce within the program. Pierce has alienated employees, as they claim in a file of documents sent to the NCAA in May 2021 that he helped create a culture where rule-breaking is rewarded.

The file came together because the breach of enlistment rules—specifically ignoring the NCAA-mandated dead ends during the COVID-19 pandemic—was so flagrant that some Arizona state employees kept a mass transcript documenting them. The file came with photos and timestamps that documented the abuse, and identified the names of 10 employees and 13 different recruits. Sources told ESPN that the investigation is considered important by the NCAA.

The file came with a note that read: “I am writing this letter to inform you of the recruiting violations occurring at Arizona State University in the football department. My goal is to … provide enough information to assure you whether football in Arizona violations will be found.”

Edwards generally acted dismissive of the NCAA investigation, referring to it early on as a “review.” Arizona President Michael Crowe and Anderson stood by Edwards, even as the show’s talent level waned, recruiting at the bottom of the Pac-12 stalled and fan interest waned.

When results in the field began to match the quality of the roster and staff, things changed. Eastern Michigan roughed it up with Arizona, as one of the big tails was called Samson Evanswho never rushed for more than 89 yards, ran for 258 yards as the Congress of Central American Eagles dominated the Sun Devils in the trenches.

In less than 24 hours, Edwards is out as Arizona State coach. Anderson stated that the goal of the change is to “do what’s best for our current team, our staff, and our university. I understand the frustrations out there. We have to do better and that starts with our decision today.”


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