Arizona state leaders deflect blame for football problems

Arizona Sports 98.7 FM presents an annual “Journalers’ Week” featuring interviews with personalities from the local sports scene. But after listening to interviews with Arizona State personalities this week, Excusemakers Week seems like a more appropriate title.

Dan Bickley and Vince Marotta, who host the morning show, asked good questions about the state of the football program, which is under investigation by the NCAA for alleged recruiting and possibly other violations of rules.

What they, and we, received in return were an apology and a redirect. What they and we should have heard, and what we didn’t hear, was a version of this:

We accept responsibility. We were responsible when this happened, so we are to blame. We realize the damage that has been done to the program and we are sorry.

Instead, we heard lectures about trust and the need to change the “professional model” of an ASU football program, not because of the NCAA investigation, but because new rules that allow athletes to earn money with their name, likeness and image.

It is interesting and hypocritical that the adults in ASU who preach responsibility to young people refuse to take it themselves.

Moore: Herm Edwards, Jayden Daniels leaving the state of Arizona? Certainly not

The first to be interviewed was coach Herm Edwards on Tuesday. Asked about the NCAA investigation, which has so far led to the loss of five assistant coaches and one of the lowest-ranked recruiting classes in the nation, Edwards said:

“I feel like when you delegate, you have to trust people. I live in a world like that. I grew up like that. I don’t micromanage people. I understand what’s going on. a lot of it passes, but at the end of the day, football is about trust, by the way. This game is built on trust. … People in the circle, you have to trust yourself that they’re going to do their job. If they don’t, you can’t run the game. It doesn’t work that way… Sport is about trust. It’s about the people you trust who are going to do their job right and in the right way.

So Edwards is the victim because he trusted too much and refused to “micromanage”? What nobility.

There aren’t many places a college football coach could get by to figure out what’s going on “for the most part.”

Most coaches understand what is going on in all games. Most head coaches would know if their assistants arranged trips and visits to Tempe during a dead recruit period put in place due to the pandemic.

If Edwards didn’t know – and it takes immense trust and a leap of logic to believe that – then he should have.

When Edwards was hired in 2017, ASU trumpeted that its football program would copy an NFL-style model with Edwards as the CEO-type coach.

This CEO role apparently allowed Edwards to hedge with one of his bosses, university president Michael Crow. In his radio interview Wednesday, Crow appeared to absolve Edwards of all blame.

“Coach Edwards is responsible for all the actions of his people, but these are not things he asked them to do. These are not things he was a part of, so we are looking at everything possible. He brought a lot of talent, a lot of energy and a lot of creativity, and now we’re dealing with people who couldn’t play by the rules and now they’re gone.”

Take this first sentence. A college president holding a coach accountable reportedly quits after “Coach Edwards is accountable for all the actions of his people.”

There shouldn’t be any “buts” involved.

And how does Crow know for sure Edwards wasn’t involved? How can Crow be so confident when the NCAA is still investigating? When five assistants, including Antonio Pierce, who was Edwards’ top protege at one time, were fired or quit? When were there reports that Edwards encountered rookies during the off period?

Listen to Crow’s interview and Athletic Director Ray Anderson’s interview later in the morning, and you’d think ASU’s biggest problem is NIL and not the NCAA.

In a Wednesday morning interview, Anderson responded to a question about ASU football being in “crisis mode” by saying it wasn’t, that “this program is going to accomplish some things.”

Then he quickly started talking about the challenges created by NIL’s “robust” transfer portal and marketplace, “which very frankly translates into fee-for-service,” he said.

“The college football model has changed, so we’re going to have to adjust our model,” Anderson said. “We are going to have to be what is rightly described as a hybrid model.”

So, is the NIL pushing ASU to change the model? Not the NCAA survey? Not cheating? Not being really bad at cheating? Not the CEO who knew or should have known what five assistants (and maybe more) were doing?

What we heard this week from ASU leaders this week was an apology.

Edwards was too trusting. The five deceased assistants are to blame. We adjust our model.

The first step to solving a problem is to admit that you have one. It will be in the news when, if ever, ASU management decides to take it on.

Contact Kent Somers at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @kentsomers.