The dominoes begin to fall as the investigation into alleged recruiting violations by Arizona State’s football program continues.
Offensive coordinator Zak Hill has resigned after serving in the role for two years under head coach Herm Edwards. The players were briefed at a meeting with school officials on Friday morning, and the search for Hill’s successor has already begun.
Earlier this week, former NFL coach Brian Billick was added to Edwards’ staff as an offensive analyst and adviser, but he is unlikely to fill the void left by Hill’s departure.
Hill, who came to ASU after serving in the same position at Boise State, resigned due to findings related to the NCAA investigation, which was launched last June.
He had been linked to the same opening position at Auburn, coached by Bryan Harsin, under whom Hill worked at Boise State. But the school chose not to prosecute Hill due to the ASU investigation and Hill’s potential connection to it.
Hill’s departure is the latest development following an investigation alleging that ASU had recruits on campus for visits in what was supposed to be a “dead” period, which ran from March 2020 to May 2021 in due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the most serious allegations are that the coaches paid for the travel of the recruits, as well as their accommodation in town,
After the school was informed by the NCAA of Hill’s involvement, it met Thursday with Hill and his attorney, a source confirmed to the Republic, and the school’s shared findings led to Hill’s resignation.
The first development in the investigation came in the fall when three positional coaches — tight ends coach Adam Breneman, defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins and wide receivers coach Prentice Gill — were put in administrative leave. The three were the youngest coaches on the staff and all were considered promising young coaches and scouts.
Hawkins and Gill were just entering their second year as post coaches, while Breneman had just been promoted to post coach after previously serving as a graduate assistant.
All three had their ties with the university severed on Friday in what appeared to be just a formality.
Last week, Aaron Fletcher, who coached last season at Missouri, was officially named defensive backs coach.
Justin Wood replaced Breneman and Bobby Wade did for Gill last year on an interim basis. Both had been in the program before, Wood as an offensive analyst and Wade, a local product of Desert Vista High School as a graduate assistant. Both had interviewed for the jobs before they were given to the deceased coaches, so they made logical choices for the interim appointments.
Those interim tags were removed on Friday and the two will now serve as coaches for the permanent position.
“Both of these young men are up-and-coming in the coaching profession and both have bright futures,” Edwards said in a press release. “Both are young, energetic and have a passion that is a perfect fit for our staff. I look forward to seeing them flourish in our program.”
The repercussions of the survey have already manifested themselves in the area of high school recruits coming to Tempe. During the December early signing period, ASU only signed six athletes – five high school recruits and one transfer to a community college. This is the smallest sign class in the school’s history.
The Sun Devils also had three four-star recruits returning from previous Oral commitments and moved on to different schools. ASU’s recruiting class is ranked only 85th nationally and 11th in the Pac-12 by 247Sports, tied for its worst rating with the 2011 class.
For this reason, Edwards has always said that he will focus on adding experienced players through the transfer portal. ASU has already recruited eight players thanks to this.
ASU has taken steps to mitigate any penalties that may befall them, starting with placing the young coaching trio on administrative leave. He also opted not to have defensive coordinator and scouting coordinator Antonio Pierce off campus for recruiting purposes, which was another factor in the small signing class.
The recent moves also come at a difficult time as Wednesday is football’s normal signing day. It also remains to be seen if ASU can have a new offensive coordinator in place before spring training begins in late February.
The Sun Devils are coming off an 8-5 performance that included a 6-3 mark in the Pac-12 game that was only good enough for second place in the South behind Utah.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: ASU Offensive Coordinator Zak Hill Steps Down, 2 Interim Coaches High