When Herm Edwards was hired three years ago to begin rebuilding a stagnated football program at Arizona State University, he had a vision that using an NFL approach to the college game could yield the kind of results it would take to get the job done.
He had a vision of what could happen if the college and professional games were blended into a single concept. ASU became his laboratory, and his experiment was soon underway.
It looks like the ASU administration has bought into the idea. Edwards was just given a two-year contract extension that will give him until 2024 to prove his new system will move the Pac-12 program into the higher echelon of the national rankings.
The extension moves Edwards back into a five-year contract, which is traditional for ASU head coaches. And, as Vice President for Athletics Ray Anderson points out, that five-year commitment demonstrates long-term commitment to prospective recruits and their families.
There were plenty of cynics who wanted to take a wait-and-see approach before getting behind their new coach. The fact that Edwards hadn’t coached at the college level since 1989 when he was an assistant at San Jose State fueled the skepticism. Not to mention that he had been out of coaching entirely for almost a decade. The 30-year coaching veteran had pretty much spent his entire career in the NFL, eight of those years as a head coach.
But Edwards is making believers out of the doubters. Anderson explained, when announcing the extension earlier this week, that he and ASU President Michael Crow were “extremely encouraged” with the direction of the program under Edwards. Anderson made it a point to express satisfaction in what he called “an impressive staff of coordinators, full-time assistants, consultants, and analysts.”
Edwards put an emphasis on NFL experience as he assembled his coaching staff.
The polls didn’t show much confidence in Edwards when he took the job. ASU was picked by most projections to finish last in the Pac-12 South. But the Sun Devils closed out his inaugural season 7-6 overall and 5-4 in conference for a second-place finish.
Last season got off to a very promising start as the Devils won five of their first six games and climbed in the national rankings to No. 17. But a four-game losing streak let the air out of that balloon, and they finished 8-5.
However, Edwards took his teams to back-to-back bowl appearances, winning one of those, a 20-14 decision over Florida State in the 2019 Sun Bowl. Among those eight wins were victories over three ranked opponents, most significant a victory over then-No. 6 Oregon.
They also won both rivalry games with University of Arizona — always an important element in job security.
Edwards is definitely building for the future, a fact not lost on those deciding whether to extend his contract. The 2019 squad was young – 33 true or redshirt freshmen saw action – and his recruiting class for next season has been ranked 24th best in the nation by two major recruiting services.
“Recruiting is the lifeblood of winning college football games,” said Edwards in looking ahead to the next five years on his new contract, “and we are pleased with where we are, and we look forward to continued improvement.”
It’s kind of ironic to hear that little bit of wisdom from an NFL guy who has never had to worry about recruiting.
But it apparently hasn’t taken him long to get the knack of it.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)