The NCAA is investigating potential recruiting violations at Arizona State, Doug Haller and Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported on Wednesday. At the forefront is the allegation that the football program “hosted high school prospects during the recent COVID-19 dead period,” among other potential recruiting violations.
While the university did confirm to The Athletic in a statement that it is under investigation by the NCAA, the university did not specify the nature of the allegations.
“ASU can confirm the NCAA is conducting an investigation regarding allegations related to our football program,” Arizona State vice president of media relations and strategic communications Katie Paquet said. “In accordance with NCAA bylaws, the university cannot provide further comment at this time.”
The Athletic further reported that the “school’s athletic compliance office recently started interviewing staff members” and that “some people in the football offices are concerned about losing their jobs.”
It’s not clear how many prospects Arizona State hosted during the halt, which began in March 2020 in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic and only recently lifted on June 1. However, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports also reported, citing multiple sources, 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.”
Thamel further noted that the NCAA is in possession of “screenshots, receipts, pictures and emails related to numerous potential violations within Arizona State’s football program.”
Unclear is to what degree coach Herm Edwards is involved in the school’s investigation, though Thamel reports that Edwards met with recruits during the 15-month-long dead period. His highest-ranking assistant, Antonio Pierce, would presumably be front and center as well. Pierce is the program’s associate head coach/defensive coordinator/recruiting coordinator. Regardless, the allegations paint a picture of Arizona State not only ignoring the extended dead period, but flaunting it:
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.”
Arizona State is coming off of a tough, shortened season in 2020 due to COVID-19. They barely lost their first two games — scheduled one month apart — before rallying against Arizona and Oregon State. The team was hit hard by the virus itself with Edwards testing positive in November.