Somers: Zak Hill is gone at ASU. So why are Herm Edwards, Antonio Pierce still employed?
On Friday, Zak Hill became Arizona State’s ex-offensive coordinator, the fourth ASU assistant coach to lose his job as a result of the NCAA’s investigation into recruiting rules violations.
I was going to write "alleged" violations, but it’s obvious now that the Sun Devils not only cheated but also were shockingly bad at it.
What’s not clear is why Antonio Pierce, the program’s recruiting coordinator, is still employed. And head coach Herm Edwards, for that matter.
ASU President Michael Crow should direct Athletic Director Ray Anderson to clean house in the football program. And if Anderson won’t fire Edwards, his old friend, then he needs to go, too.
More:Herm Edwards video resurfaces amid Arizona State football NCAA recruiting investigation
Pierce should have been gone months ago, at the same time three other assistants were placed on paid administrative leave.
Pierce allegedly masterminded the idea to have recruits visit Tempe during a 14-month period in which such visits were forbidden by the NCAA because of the pandemic.
Maybe Pierce has enough plausible deniability to stay on the job, but it’s inconceivable he didn’t know what the recruiters he was coordinating were doing. If he didn't, he should have.
Maybe he’s next, because it’s clear people are talking to the NCAA, and it’s just as clear that cheating was pervasive throughout the football program. This isn't the story of one coach gone rogue. Of the 10 on-field assistants ASU employed early last summer, four have been fired or resigned.
Defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins, receivers coach Prentice Gill and tight ends coach Adam Breneman were placed on administrative leave early last fall. Hawkins and Gill were official fired this week, according to reports. Breneman resigned.
Last week, Missouri assistant Aaron Fletcher was hired to coach defensive backs. On Friday, ASU announced that Juston Wood and Bobby Wade, promoted on an interim basis last fall, are now full-fledged assistants.
In a press release, Edwards referred to Wood and Wade as “up-and-comers.”
So far, no one from ASU is commenting about the four “up-and-lefters," or anything else connected to the investigation. ASU is apparently following the NCAA rule against commenting on active investigations.
For some Sun Devil fans, the cheating would be more palatable if it had resulted in a better football team.
ASU went 8-4, but it beat only one team with a winning record. The cumulative record of the teams the Sun Devils beat was 26-62. At the most critical times of the season, the Sun Devils played their worst football.
The future looks bleak, partly because the recruiting scandal made it impossible to recruit. Their class is ranked 11th in the Pac-12, and Edwards and his remaining staff are trying to address needs via the transfer portal.
The Sun Devils know they are in trouble and reportedly have voluntarily taken some steps to mitigate future penalties from the NCAA.
Pierce was prohibited from recruiting off-campus last fall. According to 247sports.com, ASU coaches were allowed to travel to recruit in one of the two weeks permitted this month. And there likely will be a reduction in scholarships ASU can allocate to the limit of 85.
Who knows what is next? Apparently, the NCAA had credible evidence that Hill was involved somehow. He’s gone. Who’s next? Pierce? Edwards? Someone in football administration?
Or will they be allowed to continue to supervise a crumbling program?
Crow and/or Anderson should have fired Edwards at the end of last season. It would have been the first step in rebuilding the program, again.
It wouldn’t have been an ideal situation for a new coach, but the NCAA investigation would have been running in the background, not the forefront. It would have been tied to an old, departed regime, not a fresh one.
But late last year there was hope within ASU that the investigation might have run its course, at least in terms of gathering evidence that would result in more suspensions, resignations or firings.
Hill's resignation proves that was wishful thinking.
Meanwhile, ASU, which markets itself as a leader in innovation, refuses to take bold steps to fix its football program.
It continues to employ the assistant who coordinated recruiting when recruiting rules were violated. And it continues to employ the head coach who supervised the recruiting coordinator and the four departed assistants connected to the scandal.
That’s not innovation. That’s dereliction.
Reach Kent Somers at Kent.Somers@gannett.com. Follow him on twitter @kentsomers.