Arizona State and the NCAA are seeking to conclude negotiations on a resolution that would end a 2 ½-year investigation into alleged football recruiting violations within the Sun Devils program, multiple sources tell CBS Sports.
The school is expected to agree to findings of major violations in the case, which revolves around recruits being brought on campus during the COVID-19 recruiting dead period in violation of NCAA rules. A further postseason ban is not expected to be among those penalties. ASU in August self-imposed a postseason ban for 2023 in hopes of mitigating future penalties.
On the table are potential show-cause penalties against former coach Herm Edwards and members of his staff, sources tell CBS Sports. That group includes current Las Vegas Raiders coach Antonio Pierce, who is considered a central figure in the investigation. Recruiting sanctions and a fine imposed on the program are also possible for ASU.
It is not clear whether any sanctions would follow Pierce to the NFL. Edwards could also be subject to punishment under the NCAA’s head coach responsibility bylaw. Though the bylaw was strengthened on Jan. 1, 2023, Edwards would be subject to previous language that states coaches are “presumed to be responsible” for the actions of their staff.
Pierce was among five assistants who resigned or were fired after the alleged wrongdoing became public. It is not clear whether Pierce cooperated with the NCAA amid its investigation. He would not be compelled to do so after leaving an NCAA institution. However, the return of any of the former Sun Devils assistants to college could be severely impacted with a lengthy show-case penalties. It’s believed that other Arizona State assistants cooperated with the NCAA hoping to mitigate penalties.
The NCAA describes a negotiated resolution as an end to a case that sees both sides agree on the “violation, level, classification and penalties,” citing that the process “uses fewer resources and expedites review by the Division I Committee on Infractions.”
A negotiated resolution is subject to approval by that committee.
In May 2021, what has been referred as a “dossier” was sent to the NCAA detailing alleged violations at Arizona State. The information contained documents and pictures, one of which reportedly showed Edwards escorting a recruit around the ASU weight room during that dead period.
Edwards, 69, retrenched by taking his old job as an NFL analyst at ESPN. Pierce resigned as associate head coach/recruiting coordinator/defensive coordinator in February 2022 during the investigation. He was hired that same month as the Las Vegas Raiders’ linebackers coach. Pierce led the Raiders to a 5-4 mark last season once he took over as head coach in an interim capacity. His run was seen as so successful by Las Vegas owner Mark Davis that Pierce was hired as the Raiders’ permanent coach on Jan. 19.
Arizona State has been under investigation since June 2021.
Tennessee recently faced similar NCAA violations. The Volunteers’ case ended last summer with the program being put on probation, suffering recruiting sanctions and paying an $8 million fine. Despite admitted widespread Level I violations, Tennessee did not receive a postseason ban.
The postseason penalty is considered the biggest hammer left for the infractions committee. However, as a matter of policy, the NCAA is reluctant to hand out such bans because of their impact on innocent coaches and players within a program. The NCAA said Tennessee showed “exemplary cooperation” in its case.