Arizona State fires Herm Edwards following loss to MAC school

Joe Rondone/The Republic/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson made a calculated gamble in hiring a football coach five years ago, one that earned the school a national mocking.

He hoped Herm Edwards, despite no head college coaching experience and nine years in a television studio, would give the program the jolt it needed, usher it into a new era through an NFL-like leadership model.

Edwards managed to quiet many of the critics with some early wins on the field and recruiting trail.

When ugly losses piled up and an NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations lingered, Anderson decided to make a change.

Arizona State and Edwards mutually agreed to part ways a day after the Sun Devils lost 30-21 to Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference as heavy home favorites.

“I don’t regret at all because I believed it was the right thing to do then,” Anderson said. “But I also believe that when you come to a point where you realize that you’re not always right, and perhaps it’s not working at the level you want and you don’t have the patience to wait because the world is changing really fast out there, then you make changes. That’s what we’ve done.”

Edwards managed to hold onto his job after an up-and-down 2021, but another shaky loss led to his firing three games into his fifth season. Arizona State is still awaiting word on possible NCAA sanctions for allegedly hosting recruits on campus during an NCAA-mandated COVID-19 dead period in 2020.

Edwards went 46-26 at Arizona State, including 1-2 this season and 17-14 in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils never won more than eight games in a season under Edwards and fell short of Anderson’s goal of playing in major bowl games.

Running backs coach Shaun Aguano will serve as interim coach.

The Sun Devils begin Pac-12 play next with three ranked teams: No. 13 Utah at home Saturday, followed by No. 7 Southern California and No. 18 Washington.

“Our future begins now and our responsibility is to try to infuse new energy, new urgency into the program,” Anderson said.

Edwards, a former NFL head coach, was considered an unconventional hire when he was tapped by University President Michael Crow and Anderson to lead the middling program. A former NFL agent, Anderson represented Edwards during his playing days with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Edwards spent the nine previous years as an NFL TV analyst and had not been a college coach since serving as San Jose State’s defensive backs coach from 1987-89.

The loquacious coach changed the narrative his first few seasons in Tempe, proving to be an adept recruiter while leading the Sun Devils to two straight bowl appearances.

The goodwill didn’t last.

Arizona State was hit hard by COVID-19 during the delayed 2020 season, finishing 2-2. The Sun Devils opened the 2021 season 5-1 before suffering consecutive ugly losses, giving up 56 straight points to Utah and Washington State.

Edwards was thought to be on the hot seat at the end of the season, but Anderson said he would remain as coach following a lopsided win over rival Arizona.

Arizona State had an exodus of players and coaches during the offseason, losing five assistant coaches, 11 players drafted or signed by NFL teams and numerous key players to the transfer portal.

Edwards rebuilt the Sun Devils mainly through the transfer portal, adding 43 new players to the roster.

The Sun Devils opened the season with an expectedly-easy win over FCS opponent Northern Arizona and played OK at No. 8 Oklahoma State before fading late in 34-17 loss.

Arizona State hoped it righted itself against Eastern Michigan, only to fall flat against a 20 1/2-point underdog at home. The Sun Devils could not stop the Eagles defensively, were plagued by key penalties and became the first Pac-12 school to lose to a MAC school.

“We had a lot of faith and confidence that with the right coaching staff and with some of the folks that we were anticipating bringing in, we would have an opportunity to really bounce back,” Anderson said. “We were looking to do that with the leadership we had and thought we had an opportunity to do that – and it did not materialize.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”