One week after the stunning news that the Arizona State Sun Devils fired Todd Graham after finishing second in the Pac-12, ASU made it official that their next head coach will be Herm Edwards—who spent two years with the California Golden Bears.
That Edwards was named the coach is not surprising since it’s been rumored so for some time. What is surprising is the vision that Arizona State has for their program.
The department's New Leadership Model will be similar to an NFL approach using a general manager structure. It's a collaborative approach to managing the ASU football program that includes sport and administrative divisions, which will operate as distinct, but collective units focused on elevating all aspects of Sun Devil Football. This structure will allow the department to form a multi-layered method to the talent evaluation and recruiting processes, increase its emphasis on both student-athlete and coach development and retention, and provide a boost in resource allocation and generation.
"Our goal for this football program is to reach unprecedented heights, and therefore we need to find a way to operate more innovatively and efficiently than we have in the past," [Arizona State University and Vice President of University Athletics Ray] Anderson said. "In the spirit of innovation, our vision for this program is to have a head coach who serves as a CEO and is the central leader with a collaborative staff around him that will elevate the performance of players and coaches on the field, in the classroom and in our community. Equally important, the head coach will be a dynamic and tireless recruiter."
The New Leadership Model affords coordinators and assistant coaches more flexibility in how they develop student-athletes on the field, and enables Sun Devil Football to build on the 'Championship Life' program already in place through the Office of Student-Athlete Development to better equip student-athletes with the tools and skills necessary to succeed in their respective future endeavors.
The announcement was met with skepticism and mockery online—shocking—but... I don’t hate it. If you get past all the start-up-style writing, I interpret this as saying they’re giving full authority to the offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators. Edwards will focus more on recruiting, off-field issues, and bureaucracy. It’s not the worst alternative to Peter principle–ing a great coordinator beyond his capabilities. And since they don’t really want the head coach to coach, it makes sense to hire someone like Edwards, for whom it’s been hella years since he’s coached.
With Jonathan Smith at the helm of the Oregon State Beavers and Chip Kelly leading the UC Los Angeles Bruins, 2018 will see three new head coaches in the Pac-12 (with more rumors suggesting changes for the Washington State Cougars and Oregon Ducks). We’ll see how the Arizona State model plays out up close and personal in 2019 for Cal–Arizona State.