NCAA investigation frustrates ASU football program

It was supposed to be ASU's year, and although the Sun Devils ended the season with a...
It was supposed to be ASU's year, and although the Sun Devils ended the season with a respectable record of 8-5, it was not the outcome fans, coaches, and players expected.(Arizona's Family)
Updated: Jan. 30, 2022 at 9:15 PM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It was supposed to be Arizona State University’s breakout season. The stars were aligning in 2021. USC’s football program was a mess. Chip Kelly’s prior success had not yet caught on at UCLA. And ASU had a star quarterback, some highly recruited players, and a head coach with a vision.

It was supposed to be ASU’s year, and although the Sun Devils ended the season with a respectable record of 8-5, it was not the outcome fans, coaches, and players expected.

“There’s definitely a feeling that they missed their window,” said Doug Haller, who is a sports reporter for the website, The Athletic. Haller and other sports reporters and analysts have an idea why this season went south for the Sun Devils. Haller broke the story in June.

“When the pandemic first hit, the NCAA put restrictions in place. Coaches cannot go off campus to recruit. And likewise, high school recruits could not come to campus and visit. And Arizona State has been accused of hosting recruits and allegedly paying for recruits to come and check out their facilities during that recruiting dead period,” said Haller.

ASU officials confirmed that the NCAA opened an investigation. And in August, the football program put three of its assistant coaches on paid administrative leave, which was just before the beginning of football season. Haller says there’s no question that the investigation affected the outcome of the season, and he’s not alone.

“Certainly, the biggest impact, if there is going to be one, is yet to come, right? It’s already hurt recruiting,” said Jon Wilner, a sports reporter and analyst who publishes the influential PAC 12 Hotline Newsletter.

Wilner says lingering questions about how this will affect the coaching staff, recruits, and the possibility of NCAA sanctions are clouding the outlook for the team next season.

“Just that level of uncertainty to me kind of warranted putting ASU down near the bottom of the division at this point, eight months out,” said Wilner.

Last week, four assistant coaches left the Sun Devils program, including the three who were on leave. That could create some stability and a certain level of certainty for incoming players. But next year’s recruiting class is a shadow of what it could have been, and some players have already de-committed. And analysts like Wilner and Haller say regardless of the investigation’s outcome, the damage is already done.

“There was an opening, especially the way things were going for USC. Utah filled that opening, and ASU didn’t. Didn’t or hasn’t yet. Maybe they will, but their chances are dwindling, in my opinion. And they have a much more narrow path to the Rose Bowl in this upcoming season than they did this past season,” said Wilner.