“Deplorable cheating” by Arizona State – Will anything come of it?  

Earlier this month, an anonymous person sent a dossier of dozens of pages to the Arizona State athletic department. It included screenshots, receipts, pictures and emails related to numerous potential violations within Arizona State’s football program. The NCAA enforcement staff is in possession of those documents, according to a story posted by Pete Thamel at Yahoo Sports.

The first reaction by many in the sports world was a collective yawn.

Recruiting violations? Extra benefits?

Been there; done that. Got the free under-the-table t-shirt.

Stories of recruiting violations are commonplace. Punishments from the NCAA, however, are rarely more than a slap on the wrist of the offenders.

But …

Thamel’s story went on to describe, in some detail, how the Arizona State program not only broke the rules, but flaunted them.

Sources said members of the football program deliberately, blatantly and consistently broke rules related to hosting players during the dead period, including coach Herm Edwards meeting with recruits. A source added that the evidence included pictures of the visits, including Edwards with a recruit who ended up enrolling at ASU. “It’s clear whoever provided it had a ton of access and knowledge of the football program,” a source told Yahoo Sports. “The stuff in there wouldn’t be provided by anyone outside the football program.”

The inside information may prove to be the key difference in this case. Normally, when allegations are raised, the crack NCAA investigative staff is unable to unearth enough evidence to really make a solid case against the institution. In the Arizona State situation, however, that isn’t the case – the NCAA has been provided documentation on a silver platter from someone within the athletic department.

Multiple sources indicated that there were numerous staff members — one estimated a half-dozen — “keeping receipts” on illicit recruiting activity. One said that associate head coach Antonio Pierce fostered an “in or out” culture within the program, which created mistrust and fear as he accumulated power and convinced Edwards to bring in recruiting-focused coaches like defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins and receivers coach Prentice Gill. Neither had on-field experience at a Power Five school. They replaced veteran coaches who Pierce didn’t think recruited well enough.

Multiple former staff members saying they’d be happy to speak to the NCAA? That’s an unusual stance in a football culture that frowns on anyone speaking to the NCAA.

It speaks to how divided the staff at ASU became.

“People are crossing their fingers, hoping they can talk to the NCAA,” one former staffer said. “There’s not going to be a lot of holding back — video guys, trainers, equipment guys. You’re going to find people very willing to talk. It’s because (Pierce and his followers) were not nice to the people who are good people. Some people were on board. Some weren’t. If you weren’t on board, you got blackballed.”

So, this time there may actually be some there … there.

Another indication that this may be something more than just another case where ASU loses a few official visits, and perhaps a few scholarships, is the fact that others in the profession are speaking out.

“It’s a disrespectful thing to do,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “Doing things that you’re not supposed to do just to gain an advantage, I take offense to that.”

Added Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick: “If there was ever a time when everyone following the same rules was critical, it’s now during a pandemic and during a time of such national scrutiny on college athletics.”

As Jon Wilner put it, “you never, ever see on-the-record quotes from coaches or administrators about another school’s NCAA issues”.

Are Arizona State fans worried?

Not so much …

From the ASU message boards at 247 Sports …

— “So, there are some disgruntled ASU current and/or past athletic department employees who don’t like Pierce. If all this amounts to some kids and their parents getting a tour and meeting with some coaches during the dead period, this is BS. Every big time program in the country did the same damn thing”.

— “Well well well we finally bucked up and are playing in the big boy pool. Unless we paid players which I would assume would give us better recruiting results then I’m not worried whatsoever”. 

— “This will result in MAYBE -5 scholarships for like two consecutive seasons, if anything at all. I’m not too concerned”. 

— “Let’s just hope we ride this out and more schools have similar allegations to the point where everyone is just given a giant slap on the wrist”. 

A commentator for the Arizona Republic, a Phoenix newspaper which covers the Sun Devils, isn’t so sure that this story will go away quickly.

From Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic:

If true, the violations indicate a football program that is dumb, arrogant, corrupt and out of control.

It would mean that Edwards, who preaches accountability, trust and respect, is a fraud.

It would mean that Athletic Director Ray Anderson made a colossal mistake when he hired Edwards, his good friend.

And it would mean that ASU President Michael Crow should take a long look at the wisdom of Anderson’s continued employment.

This story, if true, is filled with ignorance and irony. ASU played only four games last year because of COVID-19 outbreaks. Few football programs were impacted more.

Several members of the coaching staff, including Edwards, tested positive. The Sun Devils declined to play in a bowl at the end of the season because they were exhausted by the demands of trying to play a season during pandemic. Or, maybe it was just all those late nights illegally hosting recruits.

Yet, ASU allegedly used the pandemic to gain a recruiting advantage?

When Edwards came to ASU, the goal was to structure the program like an NFL team. Edwards would serve as a CEO-type who would be a father figure for college kids and mentor young coaches.

… All coaches push the rules to the limits and test the patience of those in compliance offices. But these allegations go way beyond that. If true, it means that Edwards and some of his staff scoffed at rules put in place during the worst pandemic in a century.

If true, ASU’s marketing slogan of “No. 1 in innovation” becomes a punchline.

If Edwards and others in the program are guilty of those allegations, they didn’t innovate, they deceived.

How will all of this play out?

If you are a cynic like me, you are wondering whether the NCAA will actually punish Arizona State in a meaningful way.

The Sun Devils played one game last fall, then had to sit out three straight games (including a game against Colorado), the longest stretch without play of any team in the Pac-12.

Perhaps now we now why.

This is unprecedented territory.

The NCAA has never had to deal with a program which not only flaunted the rules of recruiting, but did so during a pandemic. It may come out that the Arizona State program not only sought a recruiting advantage by its actions, but put their own coaches, staff and players at risk – not to mention the recruits and their families.

Stay tuned … I have a feeling this one is far from over.


7 Replies to ““Deplorable cheating” by Arizona State – Will anything come of it?  ”

  1. I think the thing that resonates with me most is the COVID outbreaks. ASU was really bad last year, even the coaches. I would be interested in following other schools that had bad and multiple outbreaks like Ohio State. Might be interesting.

  2. Wow
    The arrogant and total denial that has been so prevalent in politicians the last few years seems to be catching on in the rest of society.
    Probably just as well as honest contrition is rare thing anyway.
    Its almost as if ASU is daring the NCAA to do anything about it. I was hoping that same arrogance would motivate the NCAA to come down extra hard but here (not hear) hope and money are like oil and water with hope sinking to the bottom.
    I wonder if Vegas has odds on the outcome? most likely in ASU’s favor

    1. The NCAA and emmert are just trying to figure out how to stay relevant, keep their jobs and the money train that comes with it, rolling. Had Covid cancelled 2021 March madness, they would be all but gone. Football is increasingly independent of them.

      Go Buffs

    2. ep (you ole back bencher you), I do agree with your comments…….right on. My eyesight is 20/20 but I am scheduling a Hearing Test (not here-ing) with the VA this week.

      1. Unfortunately my hearing is good enough I still have to turn the sound off for some of those nimrods they get to broadcast Buff games. Some of my fellow geezers who are hereing and hearing impaired dont do anything about it preferring to tune out a lot of the racket going on around them. You might consider that an option just in case you run into me or some of the other more notorious posters in here.

  3. Winning in college football is not easy.

    Whatever’s happened to Clemson after those three guys tested positive for PED’s? And you want me to believe only three guys out of 105 use them? Ok. Curious to see how dabo does with Lawrence in the rear view mirror.

    I could go on. And on. And on.

    Our Buffs may have sucked or at best been mediocre for the last 20yrs, but it seems, on the surface at least, the various staffs did what they could to run a program with at least a little moral compass.

    Maybe kd is the guy to do that, and win. Let’s hope so.

    Go Buffs

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