Jay Feely: Herm Edwards era at Arizona State lacked accountability
Aug 29, 2023, 7:26 AM
CBS football analyst Jay Feely brings a unique perspective and an obvious bias to his perspective of the Arizona State Sun Devils’ football program.
His son, Jace Feely, spent 2021 and 2022 with the Sun Devils under former head coach Herm Edwards and then the interim staff led by Shaun Aguano before transferring to the Colorado Buffaloes for this upcoming season.
So the elder Feely saw the crumbling of the foundation under Edwards first-hand.
“I can’t listen to Herm Edwards on TV now and look at him the same,” Feely told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Monday. “I’ve seen it. I had all the players over at my house so many times from that ASU team because my son was playing there. I would ask them … and they would be like, ‘No, I never talk to Herm. He doesn’t talk to any of us. We have no relationship with him.’
“It was a disappointment watching him as a coach of a college team,” Feely added. “I was an advocate (of the Edwards hiring) … I thought it was a great hire and it certainly wasn’t.”
Where Arizona State’s Herm Edwards hire went south
Edwards was a controversial hire in 2018, with no high-level college coaching experience and a decade away from the sidelines before his Sun Devil tenure began. Hired by his former agent, current ASU vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson, it was a risk to bring him out of a decade-long run as an ESPN studio analyst.
Edwards had early success but went 26-20 at ASU before a recruiting investigation poisoned Arizona State’s recruiting efforts and forced key assistants to depart the staff.
But Feely said there were signs of problems under Edwards’ leadership beyond his rule-breaking staff — ASU is accused of hosting recruits during a COVID-19 dead period.
Feely sees much more accountability in the program that his son is now a part of.
Colorado, led by first-year Power Five coach Deion Sanders, like Arizona State made a non-traditional hire. They pulled the flashy Sanders away from Jackson State, where he had turned around an HBCU program.
Now in Boulder, Sanders and the Buffaloes will deal with more roster churn than any other team this year, but there is already one difference in how the Feelys compare that program to ASU’s.
“What Deion’s done is he’s created a great culture of accountability there. Herm did not do that,” Feely said. “You look at Deion, (with the nickname) Prime Time, you don’t think he’s going to be a disciplinarian and he is. He wants everyone in the same shoes, same socks, shorts. He wants everybody doing the same thing.
“If you’re not on time, he’s going to penalize you and you’re going to run or you’re going to miss a practice. So that’s what you want. That’s something that my son, Jace, craved and didn’t have here at ASU and he’s happy to have that there at Colorado.”
How does Arizona State react from a bowl ban?
With the ongoing NCAA investigation still hanging over Arizona State, the Sun Devils on Sunday announced they have self-imposed a bowl ban for this year.
It was odd timing just before a Thursday coaching debut for Edwards’ replacement, first-time head coach Kenny Dillingham. And it penalizes a team that itself saw significant turnover with a record number of transfer portal additions.
“You did it purposefully on game week so you wouldn’t have guys transfer,” Feely said of the bowl ban announcement. “You’re penalizing your players that were there, that stayed at your school, that were loyal to the school. If I’m (tight end Jalin) Conyers or (defensive back Jordan) Clark, I’m pissed off.”
Feely said he appreciated Dillingham’s message sent to the Sun Devils: Nobody will feel sorry for them and it’s on ASU’s players to stick together and fight to prove they have something to play for.
The “us-against-the-world” mentality, according to Feely, could benefit the push to quickly develop freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada, who has been thrust into the starting picture with a recent surge during practices. Dillingham will hope it can foster a unity that pays dividends next year and beyond, when the bowl ban is lifted.
“Obviously, you want to try to go out there and win games, but you’re to create a culture and develop this kid at quarterback and just build for the future,” Feely said. “Now he has the freedom to do that.”