NCAA Investigating Arizona State Football for Flagrantly Violating COVID-19 Recruiting Restrictions

USC v Arizona State
USC v Arizona State / Norm Hall/Getty Images

Herm Edwards' Arizona State football program is in serious hot water according to a new report from Yahoo Sports. Several outlets have now confirmed the Sun Devils are being investigated by the NCAA for violations of the COVID-19 recruiting restrictions that were in place beginning in March of 2020 and lifted on June 1 of 2021.

From the Yahoo report:

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, according to sources.

The NCAA enforcement staff is in possession of those documents, sources told Yahoo Sports. Among the enforcement staff members working on the case is Vic DeNardi, an assistant director of enforcement. And the arrival of those documents to Arizona State compliance chief Steve Webb has ASU officials conducting internal interviews. (The NCAA declined comment.)

The report paints a picture of Arizona State bringing in dozens of recruits to campus and meeting with coaches, in violation of the COVID rules. Recruits were only allowed to take self-guided tours of campuses but could not meet with coaches in person. The NCAA seems to have rock solid proof that Arizona State's coaching staff didn't follow those rules, and in fact flagrantly violated them on a regular basis.

More from the report:

The documentation includes specific evidence of multiple examples of high school prospects taking illicit on-campus recruiting trips to the Arizona State campus. Those came during the pandemic-inspired dead period that ended June 1. For more than a year prior, NCAA rules explicitly banned players from visiting on campus because of COVID-19. The dossier, according to sources, lays out pieces of both the players' trips to campus and how those trips were paid for.

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.”

When asked if he met with any recruits during the COVID dead period, Edwards offered a "no comment" rather than deny the illegal activity.

Yahoo interviewed more than a dozen current or former ASU staff members and multiple sources confirmed the program brought in more than 30 players for illegal visits:

Yahoo Sports interviewed more than a dozen current or former ASU staff members this week. Multiple sources indicated that at least 30 players visited campus over a span of months, a practice so common coaches referenced “official visit weekends” in staff meetings, coaches bumped into recruits and families in a back stairwell and a routine developed of facility tours being given around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. at night.

On one weekend in October, there were so many high school kids visiting that a staff member parked a 12-person van in the staff parking lot to tour around recruits. The visits spanned months, sources said, including some in October, the weekend of the UCLA game in December and through the spring game, which one source said “was like an official visit weekend.”

“It wasn’t a secret,” said a staff member with direct knowledge of the visits. “As far as knowing everyone who came into that [football] office, the number is too big and the names are too many. They would bring in parents, their moms and dads and friends. They’d get a facility tour like they were on an official visit. They’d show you the weight room and training room. They’d show you everything.”

The dossier turning in the program for the violations apparently wasn't shocking to some close to the program. A lot of former assistants have bitter feelings towards the current staff after Edwards turned over a ton of power to associate head coach Antonio Pierce. Pierce's rise in the program alienated and divided the staff, with some coaches losing jobs for not following Pierce's "aggressive" recruiting tactics.

That led to possibly a half-dozen staff members "keeping receipts" on illicit recruiting activity. One source said, "There's too many disgruntled people. There's too many people that have been through the program. It could be any one of 10 people."

So yeah, this seems really bad for Herm Edwards, Antonio Pierce and Arizona State. This is the kind of stuff that ends careers.