Arizona State offensive coordinator Zak Hill resigns, 2 interim coaches elevated
Dominoes are starting to fall as the investigation into alleged recruiting violations by the Arizona State football program continues.
Offensive coordinator Zak Hill has resigned after serving in that role for two years under head coach Herm Edwards. The players were informed in a meeting with school officials on Friday morning, and a search for Hill's successor has already begun.
Earlier this week former NFL coach Brian Billick was added to Edwards staff as a offensive analyst and adviser, but he is not expected to fill the void left open by Hill's departure.
Hill, who came to ASU after serving in the same position at Boise State, stepped down due to findings related to the NCAA's investigation, which was launched last June.
He had been linked to the same position opening at Auburn, coached by Bryan Harsin, under whom Hill worked at Boise State. But the school opted not to pursue Hill because of the ASU investigation and Hill's potential link to it.
Hill's departure is the latest development in wake of an investigation alleging ASU had recruits on campus for visits in what was supposed to be a "dead" period, which ranged from March of 2020 to May of 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the more serious allegations are that coaches paid for the travel of recruits, as well as their lodging when in town,
After the school was notified by the NCAA concerning Hill's involvement, it met Thursday with Hill and his attorney, a source confirmed to the Republic, and the findings that were shared by the school led to Hill's resignation.
The first development from the investigation came in the fall when three position coaches — tight ends coach Adam Breneman, defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins and wide receivers coach Prentice Gill — were put on administrative leave. The three were the youngest coaches on the staff and all were considered promising young coaches and recruiters.
Hawkins and Gill were just starting their second years as position coaches, while Breneman had just been elevated to position 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, officially was named as defensive backs coach.
Justin Wood stepped in for Breneman and Bobby Wade did so for Gill last year on an interim basis. The two had already been in the program, Wood as an offensive analyst and Wade, a local product out of Desert Vista High School as a graduate assistant. Both had interviewed for the jobs before they were given to the departed coaches so they made for logical choices for the interim appointments.
Those interim tags were removed on Friday and the two will now be the permanent position coaches.
"Both of these young men are up-and-comers in the coaching profession and both possess a bright future," Edwards said in a news release. "Both are young, energetic and have a passion that is a perfect fit on our staff. I look forward to seeing them thrive in our program."
Repercussions from the investigation have already shown up in the area of high school recruits coming to Tempe. During the December early signing period ASU signed only six athletes — five high school recruits and one community college transfer. It is the smallest signing class in school history.
The Sun Devils also had three four-star recruits back out of their previous oral commitments and move onto different schools. ASU's recruiting class ranks just 85th nationally and 11th in the Pac-12 by 247Sports, tied for its worst mark with the 2011 class.
Because of that, Edwards has said all along he would focus on adding experienced players through the transfer portal. ASU has already brought in eight players through that.
ASU has taken measures to lessen whatever penalties might come its way, starting with placing the young coaching trio on administrative leave. It also opted to not have defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator Antonio Pierce go off campus for recruiting purposes, which was another factor in the small signing class.
The recent moves also come at a difficult time, because Wednesday is the normal football signing day. It also remains to be seen if ASU can have a new offensive coordinator in place before it begins spring practice in late February.
The Sun Devils are coming off an 8-5 showing that included a 6-3 mark in Pac-12 play that was only good enough for second in the South behind Utah.
Reach the reporter at Michelle.Gardner@gannett.com or 602 444-4783. Follow her on Twitter @MGardnerSports.