NCAA investigations into alleged recruiting violations might not have brought in Herm Edwards. But Saturday night’s inexplicable 30-21 loss to Eastern Michigan at Sun Devil Stadium did. Edwards is no longer the coach of the football program with the decision described as a “mutual parting of ways” by ASU athletic director Ray Anderson, who met with the media about an hour after the decision was made public. .
Anderson and Edwards have a long association with Anderson having served as Edwards’ agent when he was in the NFL. He officially brought Edwards on board in December 2017 with the first 2018 Edwards at the helm.
There had been a lot of speculation that the only reason Edwards lasted so long was because a close friend was in charge of the athletic department. Anderson met with Edwards after the game and then again on Sunday morning when the decision was made.
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“Our responsibility is to try to inject new energy, a new urgency into the program. The most difficult day of my professional career, there was no doubt that we had to part ways with Coach Edwards, but we have known each other for a long time. a long time and have always been very honest. We haven’t made it here to the level that any of us want and when it’s time to change, you make the change. We believe that for this current team for our future, for our staff, our university, this is the right change at the right time,” Anderson said, when meeting with about 40 members of the media.
Running backs coach and former Chandler High School head coach Shaun Aguano has been named interim head coach and will meet the media Monday at noon, the same time Edwards held a weekly press conference.
“Shaun really deserves this opportunity and his fellow coaches are supporting him and we don’t anticipate any additional personnel changes,” Anderson said. “I communicated this plan with Dr Crow and he fully supported me to implement this change at this time.”
Edwards, 68, was in his fifth season as head coach of the Sun Devils. His team was 26-20 in that streak with three appearances in a bowling game, but ASU was just 1-2 in 2022.
The leadership change comes just before the Sun Devils enter Pac-12 play and ASU prepares for a game Saturday against defending conference champion and current No. 13 Utah. Then after that, ASU has USC on the road and Washington at home. Both of these teams are also nationally ranked.
The seat seemed to get hotter for Edwards after last season, one in which the team was unsuccessful. In 2021, the Sun Devils fired 20 of 22 starters and were chosen by many to win the South. They faltered and finished 8-5, tied for second in the South with UCLA behind Utah.
There were some epic meltdowns, including a game at Utah in which ASU took a 21-17 locker room lead, only to give up 28 unanswered second-half points and lose 35-21. ASU had entered that game 3-0 in conference and in first place.
The team had a bye the following week to regroup, but when they played two weeks later, the result was a 34-21 home loss to Washington State that looked a lot like the performance without Saturday night inspiration.
The most problematic was the team’s unruly play. Only two schools of all FBS were called for more penalties than ASU last season. There were several games in which they had over 100 penalty yards with a road loss to BYU marred by seven false starts.
Despite this season, Anderson said he doesn’t see a change at this stage as the teams are still 8-5, a respectable performance for many.
“We had a lot of faith and confidence that with some of the people we brought in, we would have the chance to bounce back. We were looking to do that with the leadership that we had and we felt we had the opportunity to do that and it didn’t materialize,” he said.
Edwards’ tenure took a hit long before the start of the season. In June 2021, an investigation was opened into recruitment violations that occurred during a time of COVID-death. This resulted in the firing or resignation of five coaches, including Antonio Pierce, who served as scouting coordinator and defensive coordinator and who at one point was groomed to be Edwards’ successor as head coach.
So even before the first match was played, the pressure was on.
The survey cloud also resulted in a historically poor high school recruiting class. To make matters worse, 17 players hit the transfer portal.
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The start of the new season was already bad enough. Anderson decided to accept the change.
“You’re always thinking ahead, looking for improvements. To hope for some extra discipline, to step up more in the bright moments and to really deliver and some of that didn’t happen very frankly, came back to some penalties and just not making great plays at great times, at the end of the day no matter what you say the head coach is responsible for the development and the environment and a culture and of an atmosphere where these things happen. And when you don’t, you have to recognize it and be prepared to make some tough decisions.”
Edwards’ hiring was widely scrutinized even from the start as he had long been removed from the college game. He hadn’t coached at that level since coaching defensive backs at San Jose State in 1986 and that was his only experience at that level. .
Edwards had actually worked in television broadcasting with ESPN.
Edwards’ contract was to run until 2024 and Anderson said no decision has been made as to what he will have to settle financially for his coach’s early departure as he has not resigned or was fired.
Anderson has said he will be involved in the search for Edward’s successor, although it’s too early to know what that search will look like. He said the search would be national and he expects a good pool of applicants despite the uncertainty surrounding the program regarding the NCAA investigation.
Despite how Edwards’ hiring turned out, Anderson said he has no regrets about bringing him to Tempe and believes the school can make a difference.
“I think there will be a lot of interest in the position, and quite frankly, Shaun Aguano will have every chance of being considered depending on the rest of the season.”
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