The Herm Edwards era at Arizona State started with a lot of weirdness and confusion. It may be getting to ending in the same way.
When Edwards left ESPN to return to college football in 2017, a lot of people wondered if this crazy experiment would work. And while there were some initial hiccups, it seemed like the former NFL coach might be able to get the program back on track with 7-6 and 8-5 seasons in his first two years, even as Edwards appeared to be learning how college football operates as he went. And even this past season saw the Sun Devils finish 8-5 and play in a bowl game.
However, an NCAA recruiting investigation into Edwards’ program has seen five assistant coaches at ASU lose their jobs, the program’s star quarterback announced that he is transferring, and many people are calling for Edwards to be fired for losing control of the team.
“I feel this way, that when you delegate responsibility you have to trust people,” Edwards said. “I live in a world like that. I grew up this way. I don’t micromanage people. I understand what is going on for the most part, but at the end of the day, football is about trust, by the way. This game is built on trust. … People in the circle you’ve got to trust each other that they are going to do their job. If they don’t, you can’t run the play. It doesn’t function that way … Sports is all about trust. It’s about the people that you trust that are going to do their jobs correctly and in the right way.”
While Edwards might be playing the “I trusted the wrong people” card, he’s still the guy who hired those people and oversees everything involved with the football program. So wouldn’t he ultimately be responsible?
“In all of these things where you have people who decide not to play by the rules, those people are gone,” Crow said about Edwards still being the Sun Devils’ coach. “Now we are looking at what went wrong and why that happened and so forth, so we are still in the thick of that. Coach Edwards has done an outstanding job of upgrading our overall program.
“We’ve got this collision of people that decided to not play by the rules relative to recruiting and so we’ll be looking at how we can make improvements and so forth and so on, but coach Edwards is responsible for all of the actions of his people but these are not things that he asked them to do. These are not things that he was a part of so we’re looking at everything possible. He’s brought a lot of talent and a lot of energy and a lot of creativity and now we’re dealing with people that couldn’t play by the rules and now they are gone.”
ASU AD Ray Anderson now on @AZSports says they're going to adjust how the football program operates moving forward.
He says they don't expect to be a heavy hitter with NIL deals so they plan to differentiate themselves by focusing on developing players for the NFL.
— Sarah Kezele (@SarahKezele) February 23, 2022
The point that Crow seems to be making with his comments is that the success of the football program is too good to burn everything down when we can get rid of the “bad apples” without spoiling the whole bunch. Edwards has installed a “pro model” at Arizona State and while Crow sees that as successful, he does admit that this could be part of the reason ASU finds itself where it is.
“I think that has worked well in terms of trying to put us into a position where we are not looking forward to as coaches through the decades come and go this notion of entire teams coming in and entire teams coming out and that’s part of the pro model,” said Crow. “I think another consequence of the pro model was perhaps some individuals who weren’t as focused on the college rules as they should have been, so they’ve moved on. What we need to build, what we need to innovate around, around that question is a hybrid model, so we’re figuring out how to do this and some of it is the hard way as you can see right now but nonetheless, we’re figuring out how to do it and we are making progress. Our football program is making progress if you look at it over the last, let’s say 45 years, it’s making progress. We’re going to continue that progress, we’re going to continue making changes.
“We’re not going to end up with a simple kind of model, it’s this or that, we’re going to end up with an ASU model, that’s going to be what helps make our program work and the teams that we compete against. So we’re happy with the progress, not happy with the stumble here, but happy with the progress.”
The point is, so long as Edwards keeps his name out of the mud, and more importantly, the Sun Devils keep winning, then he’s not going anywhere.