TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson made a calculated gamble when he hired a football coach five years ago that earned the school national ridicule.
He hoped that Herm Edwards, despite having no college coaching experience and nine years in a television studio, would give the program the shock it needed, ushering it into a new era through a leadership model. similar to the NFL.
Edwards managed to placate many critics with a few early field wins and a recruiting trail.
When the ugly losses piled up and an NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations lingered, Anderson decided to make a change.
Arizona State and Edwards mutually agreed to part ways Sunday, a day after the Sun Devils lost 30-21 to Mid-American Conference East Michigan as heavy home favorites.
“I don’t regret it at all because I thought it was the right thing to do at the time,” Anderson said. “But I also believe that when you get to a point where you realize you’re not always right, and maybe it’s not working at the level you want and you don’t have the patience to wait because the world is changing very fast there, so you make changes. That’s what we did.
Edwards managed to keep his job after a rocky 2021, but another shaky loss saw him draw three games in his fifth season. Arizona State is still awaiting information on possible NCAA sanctions for allegedly harboring recruits on campus during an NCAA-mandated 2020 COVID-19 dead period.
Edwards went 46-26 at Arizona State, including 1-2 this season and 17-14 in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils never won more than eight games in a season under Edwards and fell short of Anderson’s goal of playing in major bowl games.
Running backs coach Shaun Aguano will serve as the interim coach.
The Sun Devils will then begin Pac-12 play with three ranked teams: No. 13 Utah at home Saturday, followed by No. 7 Southern California and No. 18 Washington.
“Our future starts now and our responsibility is to try to inject new energy, new urgency into the program,” Anderson said.
Edwards, a former NFL head coach, was considered an unconventional rookie when he was hired by university president Michael Crow and Anderson to lead the middle program. A former NFL agent, Anderson represented Edwards during his playing days with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Edwards spent the previous nine years as an NFL TV analyst and had not been a college coach since coaching San Jose State defensive backs from 1987-89.
The talkative coach changed the narrative of his early seasons at Tempe, proving to be a skilled scout while leading the Sun Devils to back-to-back bowl appearances.
The goodwill did not last.
Arizona State was hit hard by COVID-19 during the delayed 2020 season, finishing 2-2. The Sun Devils opened the 2021 season 5-1 before suffering ugly back-to-back losses, giving up 56 straight points to Utah and Washington State.
Edwards was thought to be in the hot seat at the end of the season, but Anderson said he would stay on as coach after a lopsided win over rivals Arizona.
Arizona State experienced an exodus of players and coaches during the offseason, losing five assistant coaches, 11 players drafted or signed to NFL teams, and numerous key players to the transfer portal.
Edwards rebuilt the Sun Devils primarily through the transfer portal, adding 43 new players to the roster.
The Sun Devils opened the season with an easy and expected victory over opponent FCS Northern Arizona and played well at No. 8 Oklahoma State before fading late in a 34-17 loss.
Arizona State was hoping to rally against Eastern Michigan, only to fall flat against a 20 1/2 point underdog at home. The Sun Devils couldn’t stop the Eagles defensively, were plagued with key penalties, and became the first Pac-12 school to lose to a MAC school.
“We had a lot of faith and confidence that with the right coaching staff and with some of the people we were planning to bring in, we would have the opportunity to really bounce back,” Anderson said. “We were looking to do it with the leadership we had and we thought we had the opportunity to do it – and it didn’t happen.”
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