Herm Edwards was never going to coach Arizona State in 2023.
Not with an NCAA investigation, albeit a ridiculously slow one, hanging over the program, and significant penalties likely to follow. Not with the roster and recruiting in flux. Not with a revamped staff and no concrete plan for the future.
The only mini surprise is that it took an on-field result, Saturday night's home loss to Eastern Michigan, to push the situation over the edge. University president Michael Crow, who along with athletic director Ray Anderson had continued to support Edwards, finally backed off after the Eastern Michigan loss, telling the Arizona Republic, "We'll have to decide where we're going from here." On Sunday, Edwards and Arizona State parted ways, ending his tenure three games into his fifth season at the school. He finished 26-20.
In late 2017, Anderson had boldly hired Edwards, whom he had represented while working as an NFL agent, even though Edwards had not coached since 2008 and had not worked at the college level since 1989. Arizona State touted a "new leadership model," operating its program more like an NFL franchise and hoping to harness the "spirit of innovation."
Edwards' results weren't bad, as he never had a losing season. But the team never performed substantially better than it did under predecessor Todd Graham. In June 2021, Arizona State confirmed the NCAA investigation into the program's recruiting practices amid COVID-19 restrictions. Assistant coaches were placed on administrative leave. But Edwards trudged on through the 2021 season and, amazingly, into 2022.
There are so many questions: Where does ASU go from here? Will Anderson have any say in naming Edwards' successor? Should he? The NCAA investigation and subsequent penalties continue to loom. Some coaches still see ASU as a very good job, noting the location and the size of the school. If this were, say, 2019 and there was no investigation, Billy Napier and Dan Lanning both would be top candidates. Still, the circumstances surrounding the program make this a strange time to come to Tempe.
From the most likely candidates to some intriguing long shots, here's a look at whom Arizona State could consider to replace Edwards.