Arizona State parts ways with Sun Devils football coach Herm Edwards after embarrassing loss
The NCAA investigations into alleged recruiting violations might not have done Herm Edwards in. But Saturday night's inexplicable 30-21 loss to Eastern Michigan at Sun Devil Stadium did so. Edwards is no longer the coach of the football program with the decision termed a "mutual parting of the ways" by Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson, who met with the media an hour or so 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 brought Edwards aboard officially in December of 2017 with the 2018 Edwards' first at the helm.
There had been a lot of speculation that the only reason Edwards lasted this long was that a close friend was in charge of the athletic department. Anderson met with Edwards after the game, then again Sunday morning when the decision was made.
"Our responsibility is to try and infuse some new energy, new urgency into the program. Toughest day of my professional career, no question about it to have to separate from Coach Edwards but we've known each other a long time and always been very honest. We did not get it done here at the level that any of us desire to and when it's time for change, you make the change. We feel like for this current team for our future, for our staff, our university, this is the appropriate change at the appropriate time," Anderson said, in his meeting with 40 or so members of the media.
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Running backs coach and former Chandler High School head coach Shaun Aguano has been named interim head coach.
"Shaun is very deserving of this opportunity and his fellow coaches are supportive of him and we don't anticipate any additional staff changes," Anderson said. "I communicated this plan with Dr. Crow and he was full supportive of me implementing this change at this time."
Edwards, 68, was in his fifth season as the Sun Devils head coach. His team was 26-20 in that stretch with three bowl game appearances, but ASU was just 1-2 in 2022.
The change in leadership comes just before the Sun Devils get into Pac-12 play and Arizona State bracing for a game on Saturday against defending conference champion and current No. 14 Utah. Then after that Arizona State has Southern California on the road and Washington at home. Both of those teams are also nationally ranked.
The seat appeared to get hotter for Edwards after last season, one in which the team underachieved. In 2021 the Sun Devils returned 20 of 22 starters and were picked 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 collapses, most notably a game at Utah in which Arizona State took a 21-7 lead into the locker room, only to give up 28 unanswered point in the second half and lose 35-21. The Sun Devils had entered that game 3-0 in conference play and in first place.
The team had a bye the following week to regroup, yet when it next played two weeks later the result was a 34-21 home loss to Washington State that looked much like the uninspired showing of Saturday night.
Most problematic has been the team's undisciplined play. Only two schools in all the FBS were called for more penalties than ASU last season. There were several games in which they had more than 100 yards in penalties with a road loss at BYU marred by seven false start calls.
Despite that season Anderson said he didn't contemplate change at that point since the teams was still 8-5, a respectable showing for many,
"We had a lot of faith and confidence that with some of the folks we were bringing in we'd have the chance to bounce back. We were looking to do that with the leadership we had and thought we had the opportunity to do that and it did not materialize," he said.
Edwards' tenure took a hit long before the season actually started though. In June of 2021 an investigation was launched into recruiting violations which occurred during a COVID-dead period. That resulted in the firing or resignation of five coaches including Antonio Pierce who was recruiting coordinator and defensive coordinator and at one point being groomed to be Edwards' successor as head coach.
So even before the first game was played, the pressure was on.
The cloud of the investigation also resulted in a historically bad high school recruiting class. Compounding matters, 17 players hits the transfer portal.
The start of the new season was bad enough Anderson decided to go with the change.
"You're always thinking ahead, looking for improvement. For hope for additional discipline, for additional stepping up in the bright moments and really delivering and some of that did not occur quite frankly, reverted back to some of the penalties and just not making big plays at big moments, at the end of the day, not matter what you say, the head coach is responsible for developing and environment and a culture and atmosphere where those things happen. And when you don't you have to acknowledge it and be prepare to make tough decisions."
The hiring of Edwards was largely scrutinized even from the start since he had long been removed from the college game He hadn't coached at that level since serving as defensive backs coach at San Jose State in 1986 and that was his only experience at this level.
Edwards had in fact, been working in television broadcasting with ESPN.
Edwards contract was to run through 2024 and Anderson said no decision has been made as to what he financial settlement would be for his coach's early departure since he did not resign or was fired.
Anderson said he will be involved in the search for Edward's successor, although it is too early to know what that search will look like. He said the search would be a national one and he expects a good pool of candidates despite the uncertainty around the program in regard to the NCAA investigation.
Despite how the Edwards hire turned out, Anderson said he doesn't regret bringing him to Tempe and is confident the school can turn things around.
"I think there will be great interest in the position, and very frankly, Shaun Aguano will have every chance to be considered depending on how the rest of the season goes."