Four Arizona State assistants, including OC Zak Hill, exit program amid NCAA investigation, per reports
Four different Arizona State assistant coaches have left the program.
According to a report from SunDevilSource.com, wideout coach Prentice Gill and secondary coach Chris Hawkins were fired for cause on Jan. 21 while tight ends coach Adam Breneman resigned from his position on Monday and offensive coordinator Zak Hill resigned from his position on Thursday.
Gill is appealing his dismissal in the first step of a potential wrongful termination claim, according to the report.
All three of Gill, Hawkins, and Breneman had been placed on paid administrative leave in August at the outset of an NCAA investigation into potential recruiting violations within the program. In late December, ASU also dismissed Eric Bowman, an assistant coordinator for football equipment operations accused of accepting money from football coaches in exchange for Sun Devil athletics apparel that was later provided at no cost to recruits—a clear rules violation.
Gill, Hawkins and Bowman declined to comment, per the report, but Breneman released a statement to Sun Devil Source through his attorney:
“After meeting with ASU administration, Adam Breneman has resigned from his position at ASU to pursue other endeavors. Adam is excited for the next phase of his career. Adam will continue to fulfill his obligations under NCAA bylaws. Because the NCAA’s investigation is ongoing, however, Adam will not comment on that topic at this time.”
According to Sun Devil Source, members of the ASU athletic department have concerns over impending Level I violations that could be levied against the program in a Notice of Allegations by the NCAA later this year. NCAA investigators have also been told in interviews that other ASU coaches participated in impermissible local meetings with recruits, including head coach Herm Edwards and defensive coordinator/recruiting coordinator Antonio Pierce, according to Sun Devil Source.
Allegations against the program include coaches paying for the travel of recruits to Arizona State’s campus and for their lodging while in town, meeting with them in-person both on and off-campus during the extended recruiting dead period brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020 through May 2021, and leaving the state of Arizona during the recruiting dead period for recruiting purposes.
ASU recently hired former Missouri assistant Aaron Fletcher to replace Hawkins as the defensive backs coach. According to multiple reports, interim coaches Bobby Wade (wideouts) and Juston Wood (tight ends) have been elevated to full-time assistants and had the interim tags removed.
The Sun Devils also announced this week the hiring of former Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick as an offensive analyst and advisor to Edwards.
The program has self-imposed recruiting sanctions in an attempt to play nice with the NCAA investigation, but according to The Athletic’s Chris Vannini, there’s growing frustration around the rest of the country that an investigation into alleged recruiting violations which have permeated nearly ASU’s entire operation hasn’t yet affected those at the top of that operation.
There’s been a lot of frustration around college sports over how blatant the alleged ASU violations were and how more hasn’t been done at the top yet. https://t.co/n9UrrKisRZ
— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) January 28, 2022
The Athletic reported in June 2021 that Jean Boyd, a deputy athletics director who oversees the ASU football program, was made aware of potential recruiting violations during the winter of 2020. When Boyd was reached for comment, he said, “I’m not going to comment on anything at all,” citing an open investigation.
As of now, Edwards is expected back for the 2022 season, his fifth year in charge of the ASU program. To this point, he has a 25-18 record as the head coach but only one bowl victory. With Hill resigning, he’ll also be looking for his third offensive coordinator in five years.