What is going on at Arizona State?
Or what has been going on at Arizona State?
First reported by The Athletic’s Doug Haller and later confirmed by Sports Illustrated, the NCAA is investigating allegations of violations within the Sun Devils football program — most likely massive recruiting violations.
“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 told The Athletic in a statement. “In accordance with NCAA bylaws, the university cannot provide further comment at this time.”
According to multiple reports, an anonymous person sent a dossier of dozens of pages to the Arizona State athletic department. Within this dossier were receipts, pictures, screenshots and emails related to multiple potential recruiting violations committed by the Sun Devils staff.
The COVID-19 pandemic sent the NCAA into a recruiting "dead period," which meant that programs were not allowed to host athletes on campus despite playing games last fall and winter.
But according to reports, that didn't stop Arizona State from 'hosting' recruits throughout that time period. It's been reported that the coaching staff violated several rules set by the NCAA, including hiding recruits in a suite during a home game last season and allegedly bringing a recruit up back stairs of the ASU’s football facility to meet head coach Herm Edwards.
As of now, it's unknown what Edwards' role was in these alleged violations. But it's common knowledge throughout the the Pac-12 that Antonio Pierce, Arizona State's defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator, is seen as the primary recruiter and leader for the Sun Devils.
According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, citing multiple sources...
"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 dropped even more bombs in his report, stating...
“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.”
In perhaps the most extreme example of how normalized the illicit recruiting had become, one Bay Area prospect — who enrolled at a rival Pac-12 school — worked out with a position coach at a local park. The video of that workout was shot on a cell phone camera and then evaluated in an offensive staff meeting of more than a dozen coaches. Not only was the workout and visit against the rules, but the staffers evaluated the illegal workout on the illegal visit as if it were a recruit's high school game tape. The staff now must hope that same recruit and others like him don't detail their visits to the NCAA, which has leverage over the players' eligibility.
“The confusing part is why you’d put your career on a 17-year-old senior,” said one source.
Making matters even worse, more reports have circulated that Jayden Daniels' mother Regina Jackson and defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins worked together to pay for recruits to travel from Florida to Tempe for recruiting visits.
The most specificity in the documents comes with a group of three recruits who hail from Florida in the Class of 2022. All are highly regarded with offer sheets from blue-blood programs.
There are documents that show at least five tickets alleged to have been purchased by Regina Jackson, star quarterback Jayden Daniels’ mother, for the recruits and their guardians in March 2021. The tickets are emailed to Jackson directly from two different airlines and the receipts show the same credit card tied to the purchases.
Included in the dossier is an email forwarding a ticket for the guardian of one of the recruits. The email is from Jackson to an email address for Chris Hawkins, the ASU defensive backs coach. Hawkins then forwarded the ticket to the guardian. There are receipts explicitly listing the names of two recruits on their tickets with their flight locator numbers, and both are purchased by the credit card that the documents tie to Jackson.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Hawkins said he did not deny knowing the recruits were going to be in the area. He denied paying for or helping arrange the trip: “I’ve never paid a kid. I’ve never paid for a flight. I’ve never done any of that. I made $100,000 last year. I was the lowest-paid [Power Five] coach in America. I didn’t have the money to be paying players or paying for flights. I live check-to-check. I’m not one of the big guys yet.”
According to the document: “This image shows the credit card of Regina Jackson and the name, ticket number, for [a recruit]. Different ticket number than [another recruit] but same credit card as the other two.”
In multiple phone interviews Wednesday, Jackson denied any part in paying for the recruits to come to campus. She said in March she received notifications that her Google email account — the same one listed in the documents — “was compromised.” Then Jackson said she called her credit card company and canceled the charges after being notified of the flight charges on her card. “It’s unfortunate,” Jackson said. “My credit card company notified me of the charges and they sent me a new card. They charged everything back because they realized it wasn’t me.”
Jackson also said her Google account had no record of sending Hawkins an email and that the two know each other but don’t communicate via email. She added that she didn’t know the recruits or their families. “I did not support or help or do anything like that,” she said in reference to helping ASU recruit.
It's unknown what is to come of these allegations, but the NCAA is investigating and according to sources, a decision and reprimand could come before the start of the 2021 season in September.
Led by quarterback Jayden Daniels and a talented offense, Arizona State is expected to contend with both USC and Utah for the Pac-12 South division title this year.