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.

The Cost

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.

Recruiting Restrictions

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.

Bowl Ban

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.

Fan Support

In Todd Graham’s last year at ASU (2016), the average attendance at football games was 47,736. During Herm Edwards final season (2022) it was 43,081. That represents a massive 11% drop in attendance.

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.

You can read Herm Edwards Contract by clicking here and subscribing to a 30-day free trial of Scribd.


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.

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 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.

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