The Herm Edwards Experiment
Ray Anderson’s biggest failure as Athletics Director of ASU Athletics was in the hiring of Herm Edwards as the head football coach. Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated wrote:
On Dec. 3, 2017, athletic director Ray Anderson (the onetime agent) hired Herm Edwards (his former client) to be the Sun Devils’ football coach at the spritely age of 63. The weird move was poorly received at the time—and, after some moderate early success, we can now say, in hindsight, that it was a raging disaster.
Todd Graham Buyout = $12 million
Despite improving by two wins, beating UofA, and becoming bowl eligible Ray Anderson had to fire Todd Graham in order to be able to hire his friend and former client Herm Edwards. Todd Graham had multiple years left on his contract and was paid a buyout of $12 million. At the time (2016) ASU Athletics total revenue was reported to be $94.66 million, so a $12 million buyout represented a huge 12.68% of the ASU Athletics entire revenue.
Herm Edwards Buyout = $4.4 Million
Despite the NCAA violations that occurred under his watch, Herm Edwards was fired after losing to Eastern Michigan University and was given a payday of $4.4 million to no longer coach ASU Football in a “mutual” parting of ways. According to the statement released by his friend Ray Anderson, Herm was not fired.
Due to the NCAA Violations that occurred under his watch, several members of Herm Edwards staff were fired or resigned and Ray Anderson self-imposed several heavy recruiting restrictions. As a result, the depth and talent on ASU’s football team dramatically decreased to the point where ASU lost badly to Eastern Michigan. In his first year, new head coach Kenny Dillingham had to add over 50 scholarship players (out of total of 85) and over 30 transfers from other programs to try and refill the bare cupboards left behind by Herm Edwards.
Despite the NCAA Violations coming to light, Herm Edwards started two more seasons as the head coach of ASU Football. Ray Anderson imposed no bowl bans upon either of those two seasons. Once his friend Herm Edwards was gone, Ray Anderson made the decision to self-impose a bowl ban upon ASU Football during new head coach Kenny Dillngham’s first year. The timing and optics were so bad that it gained national attention and was universally rebuked by the local and national media. ASU was forced to issue a statement later trying to defend their decision.
Could Herm Edwards Have Been Fired For "Cause"?
According to Herm Edwards’ employment contract it is likely that he could have been fired for “cause”, and Arizona State University would not have owed Herm any money. Instead, officials at the university negotiated a “mutual” parting of ways with Herm Edwards and a $4.4 million buyout.
Fans and supporters of Arizona State University, local media personalities, and national media members have all repeatedly asked the question:
When it was reported that there was a full dossier of evidence given to the NCAA of clear recruiting violations and level 1 infractions, including pictures of Herm Edwards himself meeting with recruits during impermissible time periods, why did Herm Edwards receive a $4.4 million buyout instead of being fired for “cause”?
Herm Edwards contract has language specifying several situations where he could be fired for “cause” and it appears that the NCAA violations arguably meet several of those qualifications.
Neglect - "It's your job to know!"
Neglect is the first possible clause in Herm Edwards’ contract that would help qualify him for termination for “cause”. This principle of “neglect” is important because it means ignorance of what was going on is not an appropriate defense. The media narrative ASU has tried to spin regarding Herm Edwards role in the NCAA violations, why he was retained for two additional seasons after the violations came to light, and why he received the $4.4 million buyout. It is clear that Herm Edwards was beloved and/or respected by both his close friend Ray Anderson and Dr. Michael Crow, and that they wanted to protect Herm Edwards and his reputation from the consequences of the NCAA violations that occurred under his watch. This is clear from the fact that Ray Anderson and ASU never actually “fired” Herm Edwards. Instead, Ray Anderson released a statement calling it a “mutual agreement” that Herm Edwards would relinquish his position as the head football coach of ASU.
Statement from Vice President of University Athletics Ray Anderson. pic.twitter.com/4Rj77Gnhkt
— Sun Devil Football (@ASUFootball) September 18, 2022
Further, during an interview on 98.7 FM radio with hosts Dan Bickley and Vince Marotta, university president Dr. Michael Crow attempted to absolve Herm Edwards of any responsibility and knowledge of the NCAA violations and blamed it on bad actors on his football staff when he said,
“In all of these things where you have people who decide not to play by the rules, those people are gone. Now we’re looking at what went wrong and why that happened, so we’re still in the thick of that. Coach Edwards has done an outstanding job of upgrading our overall program. We got this (group) of people who decided to not play by the rules relative to recruiting. So, we’ll be looking to how we make improvements so forth and so on, but Coach Edwards is responsible for all the actions of all of his people, but these are things he did not ask them to do. These are not things he was a part of. We’re looking at everything possible. He’s brought a lot of talent, energy and creativity. Now we’re dealing with people who couldn’t play by the rules and now they’re gone.”
The Neglect clause of Herm’s contract arguably makes all these arguments invalid. His contract states: Material neglect by Coach of properly and reasonably assigned duties consistent with the postion of Program head coach, including without limitation, supervision of assistant coaches and all other Program team personnel;” In other words, “I did not know” cannot be a valid excuse. ASU fired three position coaches, forced the resignation of both their Offensive and Defensive coordinators, and fired an equipment manager in connection with the violations. Herm had a responsibility to oversee all these Program assistant coaches and personnel. He failed to do so, and it clearly could have been used as a reason to fire Herm Edwards for “cause” and withhold his buyout entirely. Herm Edwards himself may have offered the very best explanation of why a head coach is responsible for the actions of their assistants:
NCAA/Conference Legislation Violations by Coach
The second possible reason to use to have fired Herm Edwards for “cause” was definition vi. NCAA/Conference Legislation Violations by Coach which states: “Significant or repetitive violation of NCAA or Conference Legislation (included without limitation, the rules relating to sportsmanship and impermissible sports wagering activities) by Coach;”
Despite Dr. Michael Crow’s claim that Herm Edwards never participated in the violations himself, an article about his interview on Arizona Sports says this: “The original dossier that sparked the NCAA inquiry reportedly included a photo of Edwards meeting a recruit in the team’s weight room during the dead period, and SunDevilSource.com reported that Edwards met with high school prospects both on campus and at a Paradise Valley home rented to host recruits.”
In the narrative established by Ray Anderson and Dr. Michael Crow it could be argued that Herm Edwards was not fully aware of the rules and did not knowingly meet with these recruits at an improper time or place. Again that point is irrelevant because as already referenced above, Herm Edwards said about head coaches, “it’s your job to know.”
NCAA/Conference Legislation Violations by Others
The third possible reason to use to have fired Herm Edwards for “cause” was definition vii. NCAA/Conference Legislation Violations by Others which states: “Significant or repetitive violation of NCAA or Conference Legislation (included without limitation, the rules relating to sportsmanship and impermissible sports wagering activities) relating to the Program by an assistant coach, other Program personnel or a Program student-athlete, and either (i) the violation occurs or continues to occur after Coach knew or should have known that it was about to occur or was occurring, or (ii) the Coach failed to establish and maintain reasonable policies and procedures for the Program to prevent violations of NCAA of Conference Legislation;”
At first glance, one could argue that even though the assistant coaches and Program personnel did commit NCAA violations the “and” portion of this definition absolves Herm Edwards because he did not know what his assitant coaches and the equipment manager were doing. Unfortunately for Herm, further reading also states that it also qualifies if the Coach “should have known that it was about to occur or occurring”. It is clear that if Michael Crow’s interview answer is true that Herm Edwards did not know it was an NCAA violation when he was pictured personally meeting with a recruit during the Covid dead period, and he reportedly visited the house in Paradise Valley, AZ that was hosting recruits impermissibly. He was ignorant of the fact that he was breaking rules, BUT HE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN! With that stipulation in this clause, Herm’s ignorance of all the rules is not an appropriate defense.
Conduct Affecting University
The final possible reason to use to have fired Herm Edwards for “cause” was definition xi. Conduct Affecting University which states: “Participating in any conduct, committing any act, or becoming involved in any situation, occurrence or activity that brings Coach into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule or that reflects unfavorably on the reputation or the high moral or ethical standards of the University;”
Again, even if Herm Edwards was completely unaware of the rules he was violating when that picture was taken of him or when he visited the house in Paradise Valley, he still actively participated in conduct that brought national scandal and shame upon Arizona State University. The University had to impose recruiting limitations, fire almost the entire assistant coaching staff, and self-impose a bowl ban due to the NCAA violations in question. All these actions brought a lot of negative press and publicity to Herm Edwards, Ray Anderson and Arizona State University.
Why wasn't Herm Edwards fired for cause?
When any one of the above reasons would qualify a coach to be terminated for “cause”, what could be the reason for not doing so to a coach that could arguably qualify under ALL FOUR?
Why was Herm Edwards allowed to begin two more seasons as the Head Coach of the Sun Devils AFTER all these facts came to light?
Why would an athletics department that is so heavily subsidized by funds from a public university funded by tax dollars, pay a $4.4 MILLION buyout to a coach that could have potentially been fired for cause?
If you believe Herm Edwards should have been fired for “cause” then please sign our petition to #FireRayAnderson.
Social Media Reaction to ASU Hiring Herm Edwards
Someone in your own division just hired Chip Kelly.
This is your answer?
Good luck with that! https://t.co/foT2mhQiR6
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 30, 2017
Crow will have to be comfortable with his AD hiring former business partner as HC (agent-client) and whether move is in best interest of ASU. https://t.co/fC4Nhqr8dm
— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) November 30, 2017
There’s no way to slice it. An AD who was a former agent ousting his relatively successful football coach and replacing him with a former client is just freaking weird.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 30, 2017
Herm actually had two agents. One was Ray Anderson. The other was Ken Landphere… who is now an ASU senior Associate AD
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 30, 2017
ASU fans: Would you like the hire of Herm Edwards?
— SunDevilSource.com (@SunDevilSource) November 30, 2017
Help me out here, Doug… Should I go with the dumpster fire gif or the "boo this man" gif? Decisions decisions…
— Life is short but sweet for certain (@celebratewewill) December 4, 2017
— Yancy Evans (@gallandro1) December 4, 2017
In 20+ yrs of following @FootballASU this is by far the worst event to occur. Shame on @SunDevilRay23 Ray & @michaelcrow for using revenue from fans to blow $12M & not even conduct a legitimate interview process. Only one to interview is a proven loser who hasnt coached in 10 yrs
— Ice Devil of Carlsbad (@IceDevilCA) December 4, 2017
He hasn’t coached in college in 30 years! How is he going to be able to recruit when he hasn’t coached period in 10 years? Also, his record is awful as a coach. This has to be a joke. Anyone who thinks Herm is a good hire is drinking the Ray Anderson Kool-Aid. Fire Ray Anderson!
— Big George (@BIGGeorgeAZ) November 29, 2017
Social Media Reaction to Bowl Ban
Why are we still doing this? 1. Postseason bans are not a deterrent and sanction the blameless. 2. Self-imposed penalties are useless. Unless part of a negotiated plea, they sacrifice players to protect institutions. 3. Funny how this was timed for after the portal closed.…
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) August 28, 2023
Damn shame that the 15 seniors on the team won’t get an opportunity to be part of postseason play. Again, ZERO RATIONALE not to execute the bowl ban in 2022. There is so much justified excitement around the program, but this is certainly not helping in that manner. https://t.co/LtjXuFXFqA — DevilsDigest.com (@DevilsDigest) August 27, 2023
COLUMN: Nepotism at its finest guided Ray Anderson in protecting Herm Edwards from hire to fire and is reflected in the timing to self-impose a bowl ban. It is a sanction that should not have been delayed, and the same goes for a change in ASU’s Athletic Director…
— DevilsDigest.com (@DevilsDigest) August 27, 2023
This is what sticks with me about the situation at Arizona State: On a difficult day, Kenny Dillingham and players had to answer questions about something they didn’t have anything to do with, all while those who were actually at fault have yet to experience consequences. — Justin Toscano (@JustinCToscano) August 27, 2023
Beyond the obvious fact that ASU probably wasn’t making a bowl game this year anyway…
This decision doesn’t penalize the responsible parties, while penalizing people who weren’t responsible, including many who weren’t even at the university when it happened. https://t.co/1vUrhLeEOJ
— Shane Dale (@ShaneDaleAZ) August 27, 2023
Ray threw a grenade on the ASU Football program. Crow threw a grenade on the Pac-12 Conference. Banner few years for those two. They should be really proud. https://t.co/AIEOix8K9i — Tim Ring (@timringTV) August 27, 2023
And sadly it won’t mitigate this at all. Had Herm been fired, as he should have been, and a self-imposed bowl ban implemented immediately, maybe that would have meant something to the NCAA. https://t.co/Yr6ZR1c022
— Bob Young (@BobYoungTHI) August 27, 2023
Industry source on timing of ASU announced bowl ban (i.e., week before the season/no recourse for players): “It’s utterly unconscionable”
Second source: Eligibility waiver for seniors in 2024 would be “worth exploring.”
— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) August 27, 2023
Devastating failure by Michael Crow and Ray Anderson, who appeared to favor trying to protect the legacy and reputation of Herm Edwards rather than do the prudent thing, which is also indicated by paying him $4.4 million rather than firing for cause. There is no excuse for this. https://t.co/vITxDbZYWN — Chris Karpman (@ChrisKarpman) August 27, 2023
ASU has 50+ new scholarships players including seniors who were not even with the team last year. They did nothing wrong. The new coaches did nothing wrong.
Ray Anderson and Michael Crow should look all of them in the eye, explain themselves and answer their questions.
— Chris Karpman (@ChrisKarpman) August 27, 2023
There’s absolutely no reason ASU shouldn’t have self-imposed a bowl ban last season. There’s no new info about the NCAA investigation that we didn’t know a year ago. Now, the new staff that had nothing to do with the violations will suffer the consequences. — Chris Jenkins (@SmartSunDevil) August 27, 2023
Why does the head coach get to commit all these violations, get canned and wipe out the roster, and then it’s the current batch of kids getting the rug pulled out from under them a week prior to the season?
Make it make sense. https://t.co/xaRyLLPhzX
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) August 27, 2023
Why does the head coach get to commit all these violations, get canned and wipe out the roster, and then it’s the current batch of kids getting the rug pulled out from under them a week prior to the season? Make it make sense. https://t.co/xaRyLLPhzX — RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) August 27, 2023
New staff. New culture. New players. And loyal ones who stayed. And punish them?
1. This should’ve been done last year.
2. At this point why not play it out and wait for the NCAA’s punishment?
3. See the Tennessee case.
— Matt Barrie (@MattBarrie) August 27, 2023